Author: Clyde Robert Bulla
Plot Summary: Prince Hal’s parents are disappointed in him because he is “ordinary.” They won’t let him play with the other children around the castle because they claim those children are “beneath” Prince Hal. Prince Hal makes friends with a girl, who gives him a book about the monsters who live in the forest. Eventually, Hal becomes friends with one of the boy monsters, whose community is as wary of Hal as Hal’s world is of the monsters.
Posted In: Ethics

Discussion Questions

Chapters 1-3 Discussion Questions:

  • How do the king and queen feel about Prince Hal? Why?
  • Is a baby who’s not beautiful as valuable and important as one who is? Does that baby need to be smart or good at something to be as valuable as a beautiful baby?
  • Why do the king and queen say that Hal is “ordinary?”
  • What does it mean to be “ordinary?” What’s wrong with being ordinary?
  • In what ways is it good to be ordinary and in what ways is it not good? Is anyone ordinary? Everyone? Is everyone ordinary on some ways and special in others?
  • Why don’t the king and queen let Hal play with the children in the courtyard?
  • Do you think they are right?
  • Is treating people as “beneath” you wrong? Why/why not? If you think it is wrong, do you think that Hal should help the king and queen to understand this? How could he do that?
  • Do you think the king and queen treat Hal well? Why/why not?
  • Is Hal’s trade with the girl fair? If the shabby book were the girl’s favorite thing and the fancy book meant nothing to Hal, was the trade fair? How do you decide if something is fair?
  • Was it stealing for the girl to take Hal’s toys if she thought Hal didn’t care?
  • Was Hal’s mother wrong to burn the book? Why did she do it?
  • What does it mean to be “haunted?” How do you think Hal feels?

Chapters 4-6 Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think of Cousin Archer?
  • Does Cousin Archer have the right to do what he likes with his birds and animals? Is he wrong to treat them the way he does?
  • Do birds and animals have rights? If so, what rights?
  • What does Hal mean when he thinks that he had never felt so free as he did when walking in the outdoors? What does it mean to feel free?
  • Are we free if no one tells us how to live? Are we free if we make our own rules and follow them for how to live? Are we free if we think we’re free? Are we free when we can do what we think best? Are we free when we can do whatever we want to do?
  • Why does the monster boy call Hal a “Small-Eyes?”
  • Hal says, “How could I hate you? I don’t even know you.” Could Hal hate the monster boy even though he doesn’t know him?
  • Why does the monster boy start to believe Hal? Does he trust Hal?
  • Why does Hal go to find a black fir twig for Humbert?
  • Have Hal and Humbert become friends?
  • What does it mean to be “someone good?” Is Hal someone good? Humbert?
  • How do we know?

Chapters 7-10 Discussion Questions:

  • Why did the people think Hal stole the gold buttons?
  • Why do people think that they know things about other people because of the way they look?
  • How might a person who looks poor have something valuable?
  • If people thought that Hal stole the gold buttons, was it right for them to accept the buttons from him anyway?
  • Why did Archer capture Humbert?
  • Why would people pay to see Humbert?
  • Was it right for Hal to let Archer’s birds and animals out?
  • Should Humbert’s mother help Hal? What is she worried about?
  • Is Hal their enemy? Should you help someone who is “different” from you?

Chapters 11-12 Discussion Questions:

  • Why does Humbert’s mother say, “Do you think that he would ever say of you, ‘This is my friend the monster?’” Would Hal say this?
  • Are Hal and Humbert friends? What is a friend?
  • Is Humbert’s mother nice to Hal? Does she help him? Can you help someone without being nice to them?
  • Why do Humbert’s neighbors throw stones? Why do they chase Hal and Humbert?
  • Is the doctor right? Has Hal “been under a spell?”
  • Why do Hal’s parents change their opinion of him? Is this a good reason?
  • Is it better to be nice to someone for a silly reason than not to be nice at all? Why/why not?
  • If someone is nice for a bad or silly reason, what problems could this cause? What good things might result?
  • Why didn’t Hal explain everything to Humbert right away? Do you agree with Hal? Is not telling someone everything the same as lying to them?