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Rot, the Cutest in the World!

by Ben Clanton

Summary

Rot is a confident mutant potato. Rot enters a “Cutest in the World” contest, but gets worried when the other contestants look different and don’t think Rot is cute. Rot changes the way he looks to match the other contestants, but in the end, settles for being himself. Rot wins the contest and the mutant-fruit judges award him a trophy.

Read aloud video by Mr. Paulson Reads

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Rot, the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton brings up philosophical issues in aesthetics, fairness and punishment. Rot enters a contest “Cutest in the World” contest. Rot thinks he is cute, but the other contestants find Rot repulsive. This raises questions about what is or isn’t cute. Students can discuss what they believe is cute, and what makes these things cute. Some may argue that there are certain things that are cute and certain things that are not. Some may argue that cuteness is in the eye of the beholder. A discussion might veer towards cuteness being relative. As the discussion leader, you should point out that many people agree that certain things are cute while others are not so cute. For example, most people find kittens cute and most agree that bird poop is not cute. On the other hand, there might be a lot of disagreement over cuteness between people who find calico cats cute versus those who adore tabby cats. Are there universal rules when it comes to things like cuteness? Can there be any kind of consistency in the views of cuteness? These questions may be explored further in your discussion.

When Rot wins the contest, a group of mutant fruit judges award him a trophy. Readers can see for the first time that the contest judges share similar traits with Rot. This provides an opportunity to discuss fairness. Is it suspicious that Rot is a mutant potato and the judges are mutant fruits? You can point out to students that mutant fruits might have different standards for cuteness than the majority of the world. Mutant fruits might also be biased in favor of creatures similar to themselves. The discussion may lead to how to create rules to make a fair contest and how to minimize unfair biases. The problem of creating a completely fair contest could lead to a very vibrant discussion.

The other contestants aren’t very kind to Rot when they meet. They say hurtful things that upset Rot. Rot thinks about eating the other contestants. If he eats them, he would punish them for being mean and eliminate them from the competition. This brief part of the story allows for a discussion of justice and how we apply punishment. There are two reasons for Rot to eat the other constants that are beneficial to Rot. Most people are immediately going to find this unethical, but why? Our society punishes many criminals by locking them away; this punishes the criminal while offering the safety and peace of mind to the community. Is this different from Rot punishing mean contestants by eating them? The reason why most people find this wrong is a great topic for a discussion, providing ample opportunity to discuss the concept of justice and how we decide what is just.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Cuteness

  1. Why do you think Rot entered the “Cutest in the World” Contest?
  2. Who else entered the contest?
  3. Do you think Rot is cute?
  4. Why do you think Rot won?
  5. Who gets to decide who is cute and who is not?
  6. Is there something that everyone in the world thinks is cute?

Fairness

  1. Do you think the judges really believed Rot was cute?
  2. Do you think they were being fair?
  3. How should the judges decide who is cute?
  4. Who should pick the judges?
  5. How do you make a cute contest fair?

Punishment

  1. When the other contestants see Rot, how did they react?
  2. What did Rot want to do to the other contestants?
  3. Why didn’t Rot eat the other contestants?
  4. Would it have been wrong for Rot to eat the other contestants? Why?
  5. What do you do when people are mean to you?
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Back to All Books Cover image of a book called Rot, the Cutest in the World! by Ben Clanton. It features a simple illustration of a rotting potato with eyes, a mouth, a unibrow and stick arms and legs standing on a stage between two pink curtains. 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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