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Papa, please get the moon for me

By Eric Carle

Summary

This story is one of a young girl, Monica who peers out her window and is greeted by the moon, which to her seems close by. Hoping to play with the moon she stretches her arms out, but try as she might she is unable to grab the moon. She asks her father, “Papa, please get the moon for me.” He grabs a very long ladder, and places it atop a very high mountain until he reaches the moon. As the moon gets smaller Monica is eventually able to play with it and she is overjoyed. She dances while the moon continues to shrink. Eventually it becomes only a silver sliver. But then it reappears in the sky, and grows again to its original size.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Lucia Sekoff

The story deals with questions of reasoning and epistemology. There are two forms of reasoning present, logical vs. illogical; reality vs. imagination. Monica wishes for something impractical, it is impossible to take hold of the moon. However her father (whether pretending or actually doing so in the book) grants her wish and gathers the moon. The story may be refusing objective knowledge, that is, the idea that we can only know what has been seen and proven. If we have not seen a ladder reach the moon, or the moon in the hands of a playful child, it must not be real. However it may also be pointing out that there are different ways to see and understand the world. An understanding of reality as well as of imagination are equally important for knowledge. With imagination many things are possible.

It is important to explore the different interpretations and implications of this book. Perhaps the story lies. It proposes what may be considered a dangerous or illogical notion, ‘ask and you shall receive.’ Monica is given the moon by her father, still, the moon eventually shrinks and returns to the sky. Maybe the lie is a way of pretending more than simply a form of deception. This is similar to the idea behind the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, adults know the truth, however, they continue to endorse these myths to their children. Monica cannot actually play with the moon but the myth of its presence allows for her imagination to run free. The tension between imagination and logic are key to an understanding of the epistemological issues raised by the book. While children likely know that the moon is impossible to hold, they still carry impractical wishes that they hope may come true. What then is the distinction between reality and fantasy? What do we know about the moon? What is the difference between believing that there is a man in the moon or that it is made of swiss cheese?

Carle may be pointing out that imagination is helpful in looking at the world around us. For both children and adults alike imagination can be a helpful way of gathering information about the world and concepts that are difficult to understand. Not everyone is an astronomer but the ability to imagine what is unclear is helpful. Papa, please get the moon for me shows us that there is something important about being able to imagine even those things we know to be impossible. Another aspect of the book that is helpful for the discussion is the physical book. Again there is the idea of touch and understanding. If we see something and are able to touch it, it must be real. The book unfolds revealing a very long ladder as well as a large moon.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Monica wants to play with the moon, but can’t reach it.

  1. Why can’t she reach it? (Is it impossible for her to reach it?)
  2. Has there ever been something that you wanted but couldn’t get?
  3. Can you think an example of something that you want currently but it seems impossible to get?
  4. What do you do if it’s impossible to get what you want?

The father uses a ladder to climb up and talk with the moon.

  1. Can ladders reach the moon?
  2. Could a moon listen to you? If not why not? Why would you talk to it?
  3. What is the moon made of, how do you know?
  4. How long would it take to reach the moon?

Imagination vs. Reality

  1. Do you think the story is pretend or real?
  2. What sorts of wishes can come true?
  3. Are there things you wish would come true but know are impossible? Why do you wish them?
  4. How are dreams different from waking?
  5. How do you know whether a play or TV show is real or not?

This book module deals with epistemology and ethics, specifically love. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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