University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

Field of Philosophy: Ethics; Metaphysics

Plot Summary: Camilla cares very much about what her classmates think of her—so much so that she pretends that she doesn’t like one of her favorite foods, lima beans, because the other kids in her school hate lima beans. On the first day of school, as Camilla struggles to find just the right outfit, she suddenly develops a “bad case of stripes”. Her entire body is covered with very bright stripes! When she goes to school, Camilla’s body keeps changing: during the Pledge of Allegiance, her skin develops red, white and blue stars and stripes, and when the other kids yell “polka-dot,” her skin breaks out in polka-dots. When Camilla goes home many doctors come to see her, but none are able to solve her problem: her skin and body keep turning into whatever the people in the room happen to be talking about. Eventually, a wise woman offers Camilla some lima beans, and when Camilla finally eats them she returns to normal. Back at school, some kids tease Camilla for openly eating lima beans—but she doesn’t care.

Some discussion questions:

Why does Camilla pretend she doesn’t like lima beans?
Have you ever pretended that you liked or didn’t like something in order to “fit in” with others?
Do people change depending on the people or places that surround them? If so, in what way?
If you really wanted to do something that your classmates thought was silly, would you do it?
Is it important to “fit in” with others to some extent? Why or why not?
Why does eating lima beans cure Camilla?
Is it possible not to care at all about what others thing of you?
How do you know who the “real you” is?