Book Module Navigation
Bumble-Ardy explores love, trust, guilt, and the ethics of parenting, including considerations of neglect.
The tale of Bumble-Ardy is about a neglected pig who never had a birthday party. Everything changed when his parents gorged themselves to death and his aunt Adeline adopted him. Aunt Adeline gives Bumble-Ardy a birthday cake and a present and goes to work. Bumble-Ardy then decides to throw himself his own party without telling his aunt. The party gets out of hand, and when Adeline comes home early from work, she ends the party sternly. In the end, Aunt Adeline and Bumble-Ardy make up, and he learns lessons of love, friendship, and trust.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
This story deals with a variety of relationship issues that a child might experience with parental figures. Sendak also delves into issues of love, trust, guilt, and forgiveness. This is the first book that Sendak has written in thirty years, and in this interview he describes the influences he received to write this book.
Before you start discussing the themes of the story, make sure you discuss what the traditional words of swine and brine mean.
Sendak demonstrates the two different styles of relationships between a parent and their child. He contrasts the influences of neglect and unconditional love. The story questions what happens when socially normal parental obligations are disregarded. The facilitator can ask questions about what is the best type of childhood and what parents should do for their children. When, if ever, does a child deserve to be ignored? Is ignoring or indulging a child a better parenting style? Is there ever a time that ignoring a child would be beneficial, like the time-out chair? By ignoring a child, does the child learn anything? Note that with this topic, the issue of being ignored is not permanent or long-lasting; make sure the children understand that the discussion is focusing on specific instances, not overall neglect. The discussion can lead to asking what type of relationship is best between parent and child.
Intertwined with the issue of parenting style is the issue of love and how it relates to forgiveness, trust, and guilt. The facilitator can ask what love is and have the group try to come up with a definition of love, particularly the love between a parent and child. The discussion can move on to how love should be shown, and the group can generate examples of their own experiences about how their parents, guardians, or family members have shown love to them. Students will most likely understand the concept of a family love style, however not a romantic style. Have they ever loved someone more than their family members? How was it different? The whole issue of love and parents and families are obviously huge and could occupy an entire discussion in and of itself.
The issue of trust between a parent and child and even strangers is dealt with in this book. The group can examine the things that create trust among people in general, and also specifically between parent and child. In this story we are presented with two scenarios of trust: Adeline’s unconditional trust and Bumble’s ignorance of the power of trust. Remember that trust in relation to parents/guardians is perceived as unconditional, but should one always trust a parent? Why do people trust their family members? It is advisable to discuss the other side of parent-child trust, the parent’s view. Do the students think a parent should always trust their child? Adeline trusted Bumble enough to let him be by himself, but he threw a party. Does that coincide with the ability to trust children? The group discussion should progress to the extent of trust in relation to parents and children–how much trust put into each other and whether trust can be earned.
Along with love and trust comes guilt. Guilt will often show up when someone disappoints a loved one with their actions. The facilitator can ask what makes someone feel guilty, especially when it involves a breach of trust. Point to the moment in the story when Bumble-Ardy infringes on Adeline’s trust and he allows strangers to abuse Aunt Adeline’s house and “drink her brine.” Sendak illustrates how guilt, as with any true mistake, can arise afterward. Ask the students the question, “Did Bumble feel guilty? How? Is guilt just an emotion?” After defining guilt, present the question, “Can guilt be a good thing?” Remember that guilt is usually perceived with a negative connotation, so having the group reflect on their own experiences will be imperative with discovering a positive aspect of guilt. For those that drank her brine, why would they not feel guilty? The goal of these questions is to determine the importance of guilt and why there is always a negative connotation to guilt.
Finally, after the issues of trust, guilt, and love are discussed, the facilitator must deal with one final issue–forgiveness. This topic could range from what is forgiveness to when should someone forgive another, if at all. The group could then look at the relationship of trust and when a breach of trust should be forgiven. In the book, Adeline forgave Bumble-Ardy completely. Why would Adeline forgive Bumble so easily? Is it easier to forgive someone that you love? In examining this question, the group will presumably agree that it is easier to forgive someone you love. Follow up with the question, “When can it be harder to forgive someone you love?” Once a common ground is found when it is harder to forgive, imply, “When can it be both easier and harder to forgive someone you love?”
This book’s concept is abstract, but includes great illustrations that will keep the children entertained while reading it and have their minds racing as they connect the subject to their own worlds. This narrative demonstrates the power of unconditional love, with a realistic main character who makes mistakes. The story demonstrates that even though you make mistakes and there will be consequences, such as guilt, you will be forgiven, and learn from these mistakes.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
So Adeline, that aunt divine, adopted Bumble when he was nine
- What is a relationship? How does it develop?
- When you think about your friendships and relationships in your family? Did they form immediately? Why does it happen that way?
- Do you remember forming a relationship with your parents or people you’ve known since birth? What is the reason for how you feel?
- How do you know that these relationships are relationships?
- Are there rules in relationships? What happens if these rules are not followed?
- Are the rules for relationships between parents and children any different than any other type of relationship?
- Can a parent only indulge into a child? When is it appropriate to ignore a child?
Do you love me like I love you?
- What is love?
- How do you show love? Why do you show love?
- Are there different types of love? If so, what types are better than others? Why?
- Why do people want to be loved?
- Reflecting back on your experiences, has there ever been a time when you didn’t want someone’s love?
- How important is a parent’s love?
- When would it be better not to have a parent’s love?
Adeline … just hated swine to drink her brine, not even days so fine as Bumble’s birthday number nine. So he simply didn’t tell her.
- Is trust important? Why?
- Why did Adeline show trust in Bumble?
- How do people generate trust?
- Does learning how to trust have an age restriction?
- Does your past affect your ability to trust in the future? Why or why not?
- How can you heal from a betrayal of trust?
- When, if ever, can you not trust someone and still rely on them at the same time?
I promise! I swear! I won’t ever turn ten!
- What is guilt? Why does it occur?
- Is guilt just an emotion? Why is it so important?
- Is guilt a good thing? Why or why not?
- Did Bumble-Ardy really feel guilty? Be specific.
- Can only one person feel guilty over a situation?
- Did the people at the party feel guilty? Explain.
- What would happen if no one felt guilty? When would this have a positive effect?
So Adeline, that aunt divine, took in her Bumble valentine, and kissed him nine times over nine
- What is forgiveness?
- What are the boundaries of forgiveness?
- What causes a person to forgive? Does family influence this tendency?
- Should Aunt Adeline have forgiven Bumble-Ardy so easily? Why?
- Is it easier to forgive someone you love? When is it harder to forgive someone you love? Be specific.
- When can it be both easier and harder to forgive someone you love?
Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Alarissa Haak. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.
Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.