The Gingerbread Man
By Tom and Blonnie Holmes
A little old lady, and little old man, become lonely after living by themselves and with their cat for so long. One day the little old lady decides to bake a gingerbread man. As soon as he is done baking, the gingerbread man jumps from the oven and runs away. He comes across many different obstacles, animals and humans that want to eat him, and continues to run away. Will any of them finally be able to catch the gingerbread man?
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By James Bennett and Jeremy Stoski
The book "The Gingerbread Man," as illustrated by Tom and Blonnie Holmes, raises some interesting philosophical discussions. One of those being what exactly is an idea of possession? The world is full of many things, things we have created, and things that were there to begin with. So who is rightfully the owner of such things? Do trees become ones possession because they fashioned them into a house? Throughout the entire book, each individual character claims they are going to eat the gingerbread man, however, do any of them really have the right to do so? This may be hard for children to understand, but it brings up an interesting idea of possessional relativism. Who really is to say that land belongs to them? Does money and buying really provide one with the sense of ownership? These types of questions are good for children because they have to understand that just because you own something, does not mean that it is truly yours. Something like a computer, or video game, that their parents bought them can easily be taken away.
Every character in the story acts as though the gingerbread man is theirs. With children, they seem to have a sense of if I want it should be mine. With this book, is clear that everyone wants to eat the gingerbread man, but does any character really have the right to eat him? As can be said with most things, it is a good way to help children learn the idea of possession. The gingerbread man becomes his own character, and as such runs to be his own individual, not the possession of another. Children sometimes forget that they can't have something just because they want it, and resorting to trickery to get it may become appealing, this brings up another point for philosophical discussion.
Another good philosophical point to bring up is the issues involving trust. Everyone who was honest and said they simply wanted to eat the gingerbread man were left in the tracks of him running away, and left with an empty stomach. The fox, however, simply lied to the gingerbread man, and tricked him into being friends. Then, as a result of trickery, was able to devour the poor unsuspecting gingerbread man. This brings up an issue with many children, as they have not lost their innocence yet, and sometimes fail to realize that people lie. One might ask, when is it okay to lie to someone? When should you be able to trust someone or not? The answer is quite incomplete, and really just a matter of experience. "Learning the hard way," seems to be the only way the gingerbread could have ever found out the fox was indeed trying to eat him all along. With children, and their innocence, they have troubles knowing if someone is using them for their own gains. Ask if they have ever been tricked into doing something they didn't want to, like perhaps parents taking them to the dentist when they said they were going to Disneyland.
This brings up another issue, of why we shouldn't lie. The moral of the story is that you should not trust anyone without consideration. This story makes lying seem quite compelling, seeing as with a simple bit of trickery, the fox was able to reap the rewards of eating the supple gingerbread man. This can seem quite appealing to children, as they see these initial benefits from lying, but fail to see the big picture. If everyone were to lie, it would become quite the untruthful and deceiving world to live in. If everyone were like the fox, tricking people into doing something harmful for them, we would have a very negative place to live in, and children can take this lesson as a good ground for morals. Why we shouldn't be deceiving to our fellow man is because if everyone were to do that, it would be a written thing for us all. This then allows children to get a little grasp of social contracts, and start to understand the tragedy of the commons. This type of discussion can help show children why if everyone were to only look out for themselves, everyone as a whole would suffer. If each character in the book were a fox, none of them would get anywhere, just trying to deceive each other for the benefit.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
The fox laughed, “I don’t want to catch you, little gingerbread man. Why do you run?”
“Run, run, as fast as you can, you cant catch me, I’m the Gingerbread man.”