Not a Box
Author: Antoinette Portis
Bunny sure has fun with a cardboard box but some people just don’t understand. When repeatedly asked why he is playing with the box, Bunny makes it clear that the box can become whatever he wants it to be, whether it is a rocket, robot, or racecar. It is his Not-A-Box!
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
by: Caitlin Granahan
Not A Box raises questions about the imagination. How do we use our imagination? This book provides a great example of how someone can play with an object and pretend it is many things, as well as providing a great basis to evoke a discussion about the role of imagination in our everyday lives.
The Nature of the Imagination is something that philosophers have been debating about for years, raising questions about how it works and how we are able to distinguish between pretend and real-life. Do we imagine consciously or unconsciously? How do we know when we are imagining? Imagination also affects how we view and react to things such as art, films, and theater. We interpret each of these things through our imagination, and our interpretations are often different from one another. This is something that the kids should be prompted to explore.
Philosophers have also pondered whether we can imagine things that we have not experienced ourselves. If we have not experienced them, then how do we know about them? Related to this idea, philosophers have often deliberated over whether or not we can imagine about things that do not exist in reality already which leads us to think about how new inventions come about. Some philosophers argue that those new things which are invented actually do exist in reality since they are usually made up of components that already exist.
The Nature of Fiction has also been addressed by several philosophers. Are our imaginings just fictional worlds? Can the fictional worlds we create ever become reality? Some are inclined to think the imagination is a great indication of possibility arguing that we are unable to imagine impossibilities. Philosophers have addressed the way in which we create fictional worlds as well, whether it is through game playing, acting, or art. Allowing the children explore this idea of fiction and the imagination will enable them to explore the different ways in which they relate to things just as art and make-believe.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
by: Caitlin Granahan
Nature of the Imagination
In the story, the narrator asks, “Why are you sitting in a box?” The bunny then insists that, “It’s not a box.”
- How does bunny reply to people when they ask him what he is doing with the box?
- What is bunny doing when he is playing with his not-a-box?
- What are some examples of the things bunny pretends the box is?
- Do you ever use objects and pretend they are something different? Do you still know what they are in real life even though you are pretending it is something different?
- Do you think bunny knows that his not-a-box is a box in real life?
- Are movies pretend or real life? How do you know?
- When you watch a scary movie, are you scared in real life?
- How can you be scared but know that you really aren’t in danger?
- If you know the movie is just pretend, then why are you scared?
Imagination versus Reality
In the story, the narrator states “Now you’re wearing a box? But again, the bunny insists, “This is not a box.”
- How can bunny imagine that the box is all these different things?
- Does he know that these objects exist in reality?
- Can you imagine about things you have not experienced? Do you think bunny has experienced being a robot, flying in a spaceship or driving a racecar?
- How do we know about things we have not experienced?
- Can you imagine things that don’t already exist in reality? How do we invent new things then, like computers, TV etc?
- What are other ways in which we use our imagination?
- (see Figure 1) What do you see when you look at this picture? Some may see duck, some may see rabbit.
- How is it that some people see a duck and some people see a rabbit?
- Why might this be important? What does this difference show us?
Nature of Fiction
Near the end of the story, the narrator asks bunny, “Are you still standing around in that box?” and bunny yells, “It’s NOT NOT NOT NOT a box!”
- Are the scenarios that bunny is creating fiction or reality?
- What else do we imagine that create worlds that are not real (fictional)? Like when people play games, daydream, dream, or creating art?
- Can fictional worlds actually happen in real life?
Follow-up activity: Pass out sheets of paper with different outline of shapes on them. Ask the children to create something, anything they would like, out of the outline of the shape. Then have the children share with other children who had the same shape what they made out of that shape. This exercise should allow the children to realize that imagination varies within each of us. Something that exists in reality (i.e. shape) can be turned into something completely different through our imagination.