By far this was our favorite picture book we have checked out of the library this year!

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When a Dragon Moves In is a winner of many rewards and honors for library and children’s choice lists, and it’s perfect for having a philosophy discussion about truth, what is real, and imagination!

Dragons and Reality

When a Dragon Moves In

If you need the basic “rules” for discussing philosophy with kids you can find it on my previous guide – Epistemology and Aliens.


If you build a castle at the beach, it is bound to attract a dragon. He will slink in and make himself at home, and cause all kinds of ruckus.

A young boy accompanies his family to the beach and brings along his pail and shovel. He discovers that dragons like sandcastles, and he likes dragons! The boy and the dragon have a rip-roaring time – that is until his mom, dad, and sister get upset with the dragon’s antics. Or was it the boy all along?


  • Metaphysics – from the Greek “meta” (beyond, above) and “physika” (physics). It could be described as “the science of what is beyond the physical”. It tries to explain the nature of reality.
  • Real (reality) – existing in fact and not imaginary. You might skim over the article on reality at wikipedia.

“What is the one substance that exists and causes and connects our world of many different things?” – from Metaphysics and Physical Reality

Discussion and questions

This book gives just as much detail in the pictures as it does in the words. Pay careful attention to how the boy and the dragon are presented in the illustrations, and refer to the book often during your discussion.

Your children may find it right away, but try to save the illustration on the inside of the back cover for the end of the discussion. Notice that all the kids have their own dragons. This might change the direction your entire line of thinking had been going.


Here we have a problem with belief and truth. Who knows the truth about the dragon; the boy or his family?

  • Is the boy telling the truth about the dragon?
  • Why doesn’t anyone believe the boy? Do they think he is lying?
  • Is the boy lying? Or is he sharing what he believes to be true?
  • Can something be true even if people don’t believe it?
  • What proof does the boy attempt to show that he is telling the truth?

Reality and Imagination

It is hard to separate the discussion about whether the boy is telling the truth with the question of if the dragon is real. The boy seems to know and believe in the dragon, but does that mean the dragon actually exists?

  • Does the dragon exist? How do you know?
  • What evidence does the boy use to try to prove the dragon is real?

At this point, you might go through the book and find all the “evidence” that the dragon leaves. In every argument the boys gives about the reality of the dragon, there is also a valid argument that the boy did all these things by himself.

Something else to point out is that in some of the pictures, the family does not even look at the boy. However, as the book progresses it gets harder to say that the family is ignoring the boy and the dragon.

  • Did the dragon leave any evidence behind?
  • Why can’t the family see the dragon?
  • Does something have to be seen to be real?
  • Could the dragon be imaginary?
  • Have you ever had an imaginary friend or pet? Did it seem real to you?

Again, after reviewing all the evidence and talking about reality and imagination, you might ask the question; “Is the dragon real?” On the last illustration, inside the cover, it seems that all the kids who have built sandcastles have a dragon, and only they can see them.

Some final questions to ponder together:

  • Could the dragons be visible only to the owners of the castles?
  • Why do you think only some people can see the dragons?
  • Are all the kids imagining their own dragon? Or is the boy imagining all of them?

Metaphysics for Kids

Finally, you might check out this book for kids all about metaphysics. I just recently discovered this series and haven’t reviewed any of them yet. I’m hoping to get my hands on some soon because they look awesome.


This post is linked up over at The Homeschool Village!

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One Response to Truth, Reality, and Dragons {Kids Doing Philosophy}

  1. sounds like an interesting book. 🙂 I’m going to see if I can find it through my library.

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