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Not a Box

by Antoinette Portis


Not A Box asks questions about reality and imagination through the story of a child’s imaginative play with a box.

Bunny sure has fun with a cardboard box, but some people just don’t understand. When repeatedly asked why he is playing with the box, Bunny makes it clear that the box can become whatever he wants it to be, whether it is a rocket, robot, or race car. It is his Not A Box!

Read aloud video by Storytime Now

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Not A Box raises questions about the imagination. How do we use our imagination? This book provides a great example of how someone can play with an object and pretend it is many things, as well as providing a great basis for a discussion about the role of imagination in our everyday lives.

The nature of the imagination is something that philosophers have been debating about for years, raising questions about how it works and how we are able to distinguish between pretend and real-life. Do we imagine consciously or unconsciously? How do we know when we are imagining? Imagination also affects how we view and react to things such as art, films, and theater. We interpret each of these things through our imagination, and our interpretations are often different from one another. This is something that the kids should be prompted to explore.

Philosophers have also pondered whether we can imagine things that we have not experienced ourselves. If we have not experienced them, then how do we know about them? Related to this idea, philosophers have often deliberated over whether or not we can imagine things that do not exist in reality already, which leads us to think about how new inventions come about. Some philosophers argue that those new things which are invented actually do exist in reality since they are usually made up of components that already exist.

The nature of fiction has also been addressed by several philosophers. Can the fictional worlds we create ever become a reality? Philosophers have addressed the way in which we create fictional worlds, whether it is through game playing, acting, or art. Allowing the children to explore this idea of fiction and the imagination will enable them to explore the different ways in which they relate to things just as art and make-believe.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion


In the story, the narrator asks, “Why are you sitting in a box?” The bunny then insists that “It’s not a box.”

  1. How does bunny reply to people when they ask him what he is doing with the box?
  2. What is bunny doing when he is playing with his “not-a-box”?
  3. What are some examples of the things bunny pretends the box is?
  4. Do you ever use objects and pretend they are something different? Do you still know what they are in real life even though you are pretending it is something different?
  5. Do you think bunny knows that his not-a-box is a box in real life?
  6. Are movies pretend or real life? How do you know?
  7. When you watch a scary movie, are you scared in real life?
  8. How can you be scared but know that you really aren’t in danger?
  9. If you know the movie is just pretend, then why are you scared?


In the story, the narrator states, “Now you’re wearing a box? But again, the bunny insists, “This is not a box.”

  1. How can bunny imagine that the box is all these different things?
  2. Does he know that these objects exist in reality?
  3. Can you imagine things you have not experienced? Do you think bunny has experienced being a robot, flying in a spaceship, or driving a race car?
  4. How do we know about things we have not experienced?
  5. Can you imagine things that don’t already exist in reality? How do we invent new things then, like computers, TV, etc?
  6. What are other ways in which we use our imagination?


Near the end of the story, the narrator asks bunny, “Are you still standing around in that box?” and bunny yells, “It’s NOT NOT NOT NOT a box!”

  1. Are the scenarios that bunny is creating fiction or reality?
  2. What else do we imagine that create worlds that are not real (fictional)? Like when people play games, daydream, dream, or creating art?
  3. Can fictional worlds actually happen in real life?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Caitlin Granahan. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.

Download & Print Email Book Module Back to All Books
Back to All Books Cover image for Not a Box with a simple line-drawing of a bunny next to a rectangle. The whole cover image is brown, and is meant to look sort of like an actual cardboard box. Download & Print Email Book Module

About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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