Title and Author: Frederick by Leo Lionni
Field of Philosophy: Ethics; Social and Political Philosophy;
Plot Summary: A family of five field mice is gathering food for the winter and everyone is working hard to bring in as much food as they can, except Frederick. Frederick seems to spend his time staring at the meadow and half-asleep, dreaming. When the other mice ask him what he is doing, Frederick replies that he is gathering "sun rays for the cold dark winter days," "colors . . . [f]or winter is gray," and "words . . . [f]or the winter days are long and many, and we'll run out of things to say." Once winter sets in, the five mice hide away in an old stone wall, and have plenty to eat and stories to tell. As winter continues, however, there is less food and more cold, and much less chatting among the family members. Then they remember Frederick's fall activities and they ask him about his supplies. Frederick proceeds to describe the rays of the sun and colors, and begins reciting poetry. The family realizes that he is a poet.
Some discussion questions:
Does Frederick do his part for the family community?
Does being a member of a community mean that you are obligated to contribute to it?
What are the responsibilities of family members to each other?
Is Frederick meeting his responsibilities?
Is Frederick's work of gathering ideas and words and images as important as gathering food?
If Frederick doesn't gather food but instead spends his time thinking in preparation for giving to his family in a different way, is he entitled to an equal share of the food?
What is important to Frederick about poetry?
Is what Frederick is doing work?
What is work?
Is thinking work?
Are some forms of work more important than others?