If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
by Laura Numeroff
This story describes a set of events that occurs after a boy gives a mouse a cookie. Once the mouse is given the cookie, he asks for a glass of milk, which ends up leading to a series of additional requests. Each event that occurs makes the mouse want something new, creating a seemingly endless stream of demands. In the end, the mouse asks for another glass of milk, which makes him want another cookie. The reader is left with the impression that the mouse is going to go through this loop again.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
by Nicki Polyakov and Dylan Zeng
Although If You Give a Mouse a Cookie may initially seem like a simple book, it explores some pretty complex philosophical topics. Some of these topics may be pretty perplexing for first graders, so instructors should try to avoid sophisticated terms and place those topics into real-life contexts.
Free Will and Determinism
At the beginning of the book, the mouse is given a cookie. This sets off a series of events, each of which stems from another event. For example, after the mouse is given a cookie, he feels thirsty. Naturally, this leads him to ask for a glass of milk. This gives us an opportunity to discuss determinism. Determinism is the idea that the facts of the past, in conjunction with the laws of nature, entail every truth about the future. We could present the following equation to first graders and ask them to contemplate whether it is true: what happened in the past + laws of nature = what is going to happen in the future. We could ask the students to look at this equation and try to see if there are any loopholes. Is what’s going to happen in the future determined by more than just the past + laws of nature? If so, what? Because this is such a complex concept, it is important for the instructor to follow the logic of the first graders and ask them succeeding questions based on their current understanding of the topic. If first graders do not understand the equation, we should encourage them to ask questions.
In addition to determinism, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie can be used to discuss the idea of free will. Do we actually have the ability to make our own decisions, or is free will an illusion? If the equation we discussed is true, can we actually make our own choices? Why or why not? We could also ask them to consider whether feeling like you have free will means that you actually have free will. For example, if you are hungry and there is an apple in front of you and you eat it, did you make the choice to eat that apple? Or did you have to eat it because you were hungry and it was the only food in front of you? Additionally, when we do something, is it like a tree that falls over in a strong wind? Did the tree have a choice? Do we have a choice to eat apple? If so, what’s the difference between us and the tree?
Friendship v Parent/Child
Determinism and free will are interesting concepts, but If You Give A Mouse A Cookie also gives us some simpler ideas we can explore. For example, the book gives us an opportunity to discuss the nature of the relationship between the boy and the mouse. Throughout the story, the boy does a lot of things for the mouse. Whenever the mouse wants something, the boy gives it to him without asking for anything in return. One might argue that this closely resembles the relationship between a parent and a child. Talking about this can give children the chance to reflect on their relationships with their own parents, making light of the fact that parents often do a lot for their children without asking for anything in return. Alternatively, one might argue that the relationship between the mouse and the child resembles a friendship. Children can discuss the friendships in their own lives and whether or not they are similar to the friendship between the mouse and the boy.
As mentioned earlier, the boy often does things for the mouse without expecting anything in return. Because of this, children can use the relationship between the mouse and the boy to discuss altruism. We can question why people help others without asking for anything return. Do we gain anything when we help others, even when they don’t do anything for us? Additionally, children can explore the line between when it is a good thing to help someone without asking for anything in return and when helping others without getting anything back is unfair. Is it always good to help others? First graders can reflect on selflessness and its application to their daily lives.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Determinism vs Free Will:
If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw. When he ‘s finished, he’ll ask for a napkin....
Friendship vs Parent/Child
He’ll probably ask you to read him a story…
You’ll have to fix up a little box for him with a blanket and a pillow…
This book module deals with Determinism, Free Will, Friendship. Parenting and Altruism. It is appropriate for advanced philosophers(for the determinism/free will topic). You can buy this book on Amazon. You can buy this book on Amazon.