University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
Print
Find us on Facebook Blogger Twitter Pinterest   

Title and Author: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

Field of Philosophy: Metaphysics; Epistemology

Plot Summary: Sylvester, a donkey, finds a pebble that grants wishes. After having several wishes granted, Sylvester is frightened by a dragon, and, panicking, he says, “I wish I were a rock.” He becomes a rock and is no longer able to pick up the pebble to make any wishes. Thinking about his life, he feels helpless. Over the next year, as his parents and community eventually stop searching for him, Sylvester tries to get used to the idea that he will always be a rock. In the end, his parents find the magic pebble, wish him back to himself, and he turns back into a donkey.

Some Discussion Questions:


WHAT IS MAGIC?
Is magic real?
What kinds of things are magic?


Imagination and Existence
Can anything you imagine really exist?
If you had a magic pebble like the one Sylvester found what would you do with it? What would you wish for? What other ways could you get your wish?
Do you think the magic pebble could be dangerous in any way? What are the dangers of having a power like this? Would you be tempted to commit evil acts?
Could you change into a different thing by wishing?
If you could change into anything else, what would it be? Why?
What would be a good reason to change into something else?

MAKING THINGS HAPPEN (CAUSE AND EFFECT)
Can you make these things happen?
The sun come out.
Rain fall.
A plant grow.
Someone laugh.
Someone cry.
Someone read you a story.
The stars shine.
A rock move.


Thinking
When Sylvester is a rock, is he thinking?
Can rocks think?
Does the fact that Sylvester is thinking show that he is still really a donkey? Do donkeys think?