Author: Kelly DiPucchio

Plot Summary: A bulldog named Gaston is raised by a family of poodles. Although it does not come easily to him, Gaston learns to be prim and proper like the rest of the poodles. One day, Gaston and his family meet a family of bulldogs, and Gaston looks just like all of them except for Antoinette, a poodle, who looks just like Gaston's family. The parents of each family surmise that the puppies must have been accidentally switched, so Gaston goes to live with the bulldogs and Antoinette with the poodles. Both Gaston and Antoinette soon learn, however, that they don’t feel at home with their “blood” families; Gaston is too gentle for the bulldogs, and Antoinette is too rough for the poodles. The puppies switch back and are happy to be with their original families once more. The story ends with an epilogue where Gaston and Antoinette raise a family of their own, teaching their puppies to be “whatever they wanted to be.”

Posted In: Metaphysics

Discussion Questions:

How much of your personality and beliefs come from your parents?

What parts of us are important to who we are? What parts aren’t as important?

What kinds of things can we gain and learn from making friends with different kinds of people?

Are we necessarily more like the people we look like?

What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of person does your family or friends want you to be?

To foster these discussions and get the kids thinking about them, give each student a small index card before reading the story. Ask each student to write down the three most important words or phrases that describe who they are. They could be anything, from something about their bodies, their families, their interests, or whatever else they find important. You can also frame it as the three things they would say first about themselves when first meeting someone.

When everyone is done writing down their responses, ask the students to share what they wrote. Students will likely give a wide range of answers. Often these answers are different than the kinds of answers adults give. Whereas adults might respond with their jobs, their genders, and their ethnicities, children might list their pets or favorite school subjects as the things most important to defining them.

After the initial exercise and reading the story, the discussion should be able to use Gaston’s journey to understanding himself as a way to explore how the students understand themselves and their identities.

Contributed by Alex Bruell