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by Janell Cannon


How does your role in society affect your identity? What does it mean to be a friend?

Stellaluna, a fruit bat, has been separated by her mother and cannot fly. A group of birds takes care of Stellaluna. From them, she not only learns how to fly, but also how to be a friend.

Read aloud video by JoyFul Bookshelf

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

This wonderful story will no doubt inspire a philosophical discussion on identity, social influences, and promise-keeping. The question sets encourage children to explore what makes up a person’s identity, how relationships affect who you are, and what kind of promises people make and why they might break them. All the question sets are intended to combine these themes in order to guide an engaging philosophical discussion.

Figuring out one’s own identity is one of the most complicated processes children go through. A person’s identity is shaped by one’s strengths and limitations as well as one’s relationships with others. Stellaluna struggles with this idea because of her strengths and limitations as a bat among birds. Stellaluna also struggles with maintaining identity while adjusting to different surroundings and animals.

The second question set explores the issue of social influences on identity, for example, how family and friends might shape a child’s identity.

The final set of questions helps children explore the concept of promises, including why people make promises, what kinds of promises there are, whether it matters to whom one makes promises, and when, if ever, it is allowable to break promises. This will give the children the opportunity to think more critically about the effects and importance of promises they make to others.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion


Stellaluna has different roles such as daughter, friend, bat, and bird.

  1. Who is Stellaluna? Is she a bat or is she a bird? Why?
  2. Who are you?
  3. An important part of who you are has to do with the parts you play in relationships with other people. Sometimes these are called roles. For example, you could be a brother or sister, teacher or student. What kinds of roles do you have?
  4. Stellaluna is a bat, but sometimes she feels like a bird. Do you ever feel different than who you are? For example, do you ever feel like a superhero or villain?
  5. Stellaluna is a bat, but sometimes she feels like a bird. Can you be something but not feel like it?
  6. Are there things about yourself that you can change? Are there things about yourself that you can’t change? Why?
  7. You are very different now than you were a few years ago. How? Are you the same person? Why?

Social Influences

Flitter asks Stellaluna, “How can we be so different and feel so much alike?” while Pip asks Stellaluna, “How can we feel so different and be so much alike?”

  1. What makes you different from your family and friends?
  2. What makes you the same as your family and friends?
  3. Do your family and friends shape who you are? How?
  4. Was there ever a time you acted a certain way because you wanted to be accepted by someone else or a group of people? How did it make you feel?
  5. Can you still feel like yourself if you belong to a group?
  6. What are the similarities and differences of your family or other human families to Stellaluna’s?


Stellaluna promises Mama Bird that she will obey all the rules of the house, such as not sleeping upside down.

  1. Why does Mama Bird want Stellaluna to promise to obey the rules of the house?
  2. What kinds of promises do you make? To whom do you make them?
  3. Why do you make promises? Why do you break promises?
  4. When Stellaluna finds the other bats, they tell her that she doesn’t have to sleep like the birds. Why do they tell her that?
  5. Are some promises more important to keep than others? Why?
  6. Are there some people that it is more important to keep promises to than others? Who? Why?
  7. Should a person always act on a promise to someone even if they are not around? Why?

Even though Mama Bird is not around when Stellaluna is lost, Stellaluna keeps her promise that she would not sleep upside down.

  1. How do you feel when a promise made to you is kept?
  2. How do you feel when a promise is broken?
  3. Does it matter who made the promise?
  4. Have you ever broken a promise?
  5. Why did you break it? Is it ever okay to break a promise?
  6. Would you make a promise to someone even if it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t agree with it? When?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Rachel Brauser archived here. Revised April 2020 by Jessica Mejía and Emily Knuth.

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

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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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