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By Lio Lionni


This story is about Cornelius a crocodile who is born walking upright. This enables him to see far beyond the bushes and see fish from above, things the other crocodiles cannot do. Though Cornelius thinks that his abilities are special, his fellow crocodiles are not impressed. In the end, Cornelius walks away angrily after his friends and family still don’t seem to care about the cool tricks a monkey taught him. But as he is walking away he looks back and sees everyone trying to stand on their heads, one of the tricks Cornelius learned from the monkey and was trying to show them. “Life on the river beach would never be the same again.”

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Sanaa Sayani

This story provides an opportunity for children to discuss the various ways we show and hide feelings. It also asks us to think about how pride and jealousy affect our perceptions of others and ourselves.

Cornelius’ friends and family remain unimpressed every time he shows them something new he has learned. Throughout the book, they seem not to care and yet in the end we see them trying to do what Cornelius had showed them. Their feelings did not match what they said. It seems they were afraid to admit that they were interested in a crocodile who had abilities that they did not.

Cornelius’ friends and family didn’t seem to value him and his differences. While Cornelius was making the most of the difference that he was born with by learning to do more unusual (for a crocodile!) things, the other crocodiles do not acknowledge that there is anything special about him. What reasons might they have for appearing indifferent to Cornelius’ accomplishments?

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

When Cornelius told his friends and family about his accomplishments.

  1. Was Cornelius bragging or was he just proud of what he could do?
  2. If you think he was bragging do you think he knew he was bragging?
  3. Should people be proud of skills they have even if they are born with them?
  4. Do the other crocodiles have a good reason to be annoyed by Cornelius?
  5. Do you think that Cornelius’ peers were being selfish when they wouldn’t admit that they were in fact fascinated by the new things he was learning to do?

When Cornelius turned around and saw the other Crocodiles actually interested in Cornelius’ new tricks.

  1. What are some of the ways we show our feelings?
  2. Do the words that we say show the feelings that we have? How can you be sure that someone feels the way she says she does?
  3. Have you had an instance when what you said doesn’t match how you felt?

This book module deals with ethics, specifically friendship. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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