By Mike Reiss
When he is late for school, Smitty tells of his troubles in getting to school, and how, though he had the best of intentions numerous obstacles situations and circumstances hindered him. As he tells his story, they constantly get more and more outrageous until its clear he couldn't possibly have dealt with any of these things, the reader begins to question and then completely doubts his credibility.
His determination includes walking through tar in his socks, sailing through times square on his backpack, climbing out of a whales spout, escaping a humongous ape, deterring a T-Rex, and scolding a metallic bird- only to find that he is early for school. He then sits down for a nap, and awakens late- to the evil eye of his teacher for whom -the reader realizes in the end- this tale is spun.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
So the first philosophical issue in this book is lying, with the second being excuses.
The reader is asked to wonder if tardiness is excusable with a valid excuse, or several. In the stories that Smitty weaves, although ranging from different topics, they all hold one thing in common- they take things that exist, and inflate their qualities and attributes, and actions into an exaggerated, embellished story that in unbelievable, though entertaining. The illustrator does a fabulous job, so that the story conveys such life it’s impossible not to love. We are asked to question what a lie is. Can it be based on a truth? How far can one exaggerate and call it a lie instead of a tall tale? If we present a tale as truth is that lying? Or must it be believable? The author (through Smitty) takes the reader on an incredible journey that's full of creativity and laughter while we identify falsity no matter how colorful.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Truths and Lies
Smitty told us many stories, all of which were amazing.
- Did you believe everything Smitty said?
- Was some of it hard to believe?
- If something is hard to believe, does that mean it is not true?
- How real do you think Smitty's story is?
- Do you think Smitty was lying when he told about all the things he did on his way to school?
- A lot of his details are exaggerated, is that lying- if you only add, or embellish?
- If a story is so unbelievable that’s its clearly unreal is it a lie?
- Have you ever told a story that wasn't true?
- Did the person believe you? If not, did the person think you were lying?
- Is it wrong to lie? If so why?
- Are their different kinds of lies?
- In order to explain himself to the teacher, Smitty lied, is there ever a good reason to lie?
- Is it ever OK to lie? If so, when and why?
- Is it OK to lie if you have a good reason? If so how do you know if you have a good reason to lie?
- Are you lying if you leave something out of a story? If so why? Or why not?
- Are you lying if you add something to a story? If so why? Or why not?
- Does a story have to be believable to be a lie?
Smitty said that he lives by one rule "...I am never late to school..."
- Is it possible to live by one rule? And never break it?
- Do you think that Smitty's rule about never being late to school is a good one, Do you think he can always follow it?Is it OK to break your one rule, like Smitty broke his by being late to school?
- If you break that rule by accident does that make it worth nothing forever?
- What if something really bad happens?
Smitty had the best of intention to be on time.
- Why did Smitty try so hard not to be late for school?
- Have you ever been late to anything? Was it a bad thing being late? Why was it a bad thing to be late?
- Even with a valid excuse is it still wrong? What counts as valid?
- Even when bad things happen, why do we try not to be late?
- If someone is always late what do you think about that person?Why do you think that?
- Do you think it's "better late than not at all"?
- If some one has a good reason that they were late does that make it ok that they were late? if so why?
Smitty dealt with many strange and huge things.
- If you were Smitty’s would you have turned back at some point? or would you have gone through everything he did to get to school? If not, is that giving up? If so, why do you think trying hard respected?
- Is that giving up? Why is perseverance respected? (Especially in extreme circumstance)
Dreams and Reality
Smitty woke up on Monday after falling asleep outside the school.
- Do you think his adventure to get to school was just a dream?Why or why not?
- How do we know he was or was not dreaming??
- Have you ever dreamed something that could have happened- so real that you thought it did?
- How do you know your awake now?
This book module deals with ethics and metaphysics.
You can buy this book on Amazon.