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by Tony Ross and Lindsay Camp


This story invites us to dissect the nature of questions, and when it might be appropriate to ask them.

Lily is a young girl who always wants to know why things are the way they are.  While she is with her dad, she responds to him only with one question, “why?”. This constant questioning frustrates her dad, but when aliens arrive on the planet and threaten to destroy it, Lily stops them by asking them why they want to do that.  Confused and unable to answer, the aliens leave and Lily saves the planet.  Lily’s dad decides to never get upset with her again whenever she asks “why?”

Read aloud video by Storytime Love

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Why? by Lindsay Camp and Tony Ross raises the question of why ask why?  Through her exhaustive repetition of the word “why” to everything her father says, Lily is like a lot of children who wonder why things are the way they are.  Throughout the story, Lily asks common questions children would ask about in daily life, such as why people must get dressed, why we must go to sleep at a certain time, or why it rains.  These questions frustrate her father who doesn’t know the answer to all of her questions; however, at the end of the story, Lily prevents an alien invasion by simply asking the question of why repeatedly to the aliens until the aliens no longer understand why they are invading the planet, and subsequently leave.

Lily’s father is happy with Lily at the end of the story for preventing the planet from being destroyed, and decides never to be cranky with her again when she asks why.  So, is asking why always a good thing?  This book provides an opportunity to ask ourselves what the purpose of a question is, and when it is appropriate to ask the question, “why?”  Students can explore the nature of a question and knowledge by discussing the significance of Lily’s curiosity.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion


  1. Why do you think Lily asked so many questions? Was it right that she asked so many questions?
  2. Does Lily ever know why? What is the point of her asking questions?
  3. What do we gain from asking questions? Should we ask questions?
  4. Is asking why the best way to understand the world around us? Are there other ways to learn about things?
  5. Is curiosity always good?
  6. Are there times it is wrong for people to ask why?
  7. Should we always expect an answer when asking why?
  8. Why do the space aliens leave? Should they have left?
  9. If you don’t know why you are doing something, should you go on doing it?
  10. Why was Lily’s father frustrated with her? Was it okay for him to be frustrated?
  11. Is it okay to be annoyed when people ask you too many questions? Is there a limit to how many times we can ask why?
  12. Is it okay to keep asking people questions, even if you don’t care about the answer?
Download & Print Email Book Module Back to All Books
Back to All Books Cover image of Lindsay Camp and Tony Ross's picture book Why featuring a colored-pencil illustration of a small red-headed child and a tabby cat looking up at some threatening shadows. 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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