Verdi

Janell Cannon
Toronto: Harcourt, Inc. 1997

When Verdi’s mother tells him to grow up big and green, Verdi can’t imagine why. All the big green snakes seem lazy, boring and rude. So he decides he simply won’t turn green, which is why he finds himself in a whole heap of trouble.

Verdi is a children’s book. But like so many good children’s books, this one focuses on a theme appropriate for all of us. When we grow older, we worry about remaining who we’ve always been, losing pieces of our identity, and losing what has made us feel like ourselves. When changes happen around us (and to us), this book helps reassure us that we can remain true to who we are. Our aging, our graduating to a new grade, a new school, a new job, or a new reality doesn’t mean that we can’t be true to the essence of who we are on the inside.

This book can also lead into a conversation about knowing our limitations. There are certain things that we can learn about ourselves – what we’re good at, what we’re not so good at, what our strengths are and what we’d like to work at. Verdi believes he’ll be young forever, but he forgets that as he gets older he will appreciate different things about life. We might really miss something we used to do, but can focus also on the things we can still discover about ourselves when we try new things, or do things differently.

If You Want to See a Whale

Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead
New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2013

If you want to see a whale, you will need to know what NOT to look at. Pink roses, pelicans, possible pirates . . . If you want to see a whale, you have to keep your eyes on the sea, and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.

This is an excellent read-aloud book. The text is charming and demonstrates the difficulty in waiting for things. There are so many things to distract. What makes this story such a great introduction to a conversation about patience is that the things that distract us are, in their own right, very worthwhile and beautiful things. What’s not to like about roses, pelicans and clouds?

In my conversations with children around this topic, we’ve talked about the difficulty in waiting for exciting things like parties, birthdays and special days, but we’ve also talked about the challenge of waiting for difficult things too. Kids know a lot about waiting…it can seem like an eternity of waiting for parents to end their chit-chat, to be done at the grocery store, to arrive at destinations, to name only a few! We can practice compassion and empathy when we can imagine what it’s like waiting for results from a doctor when we’re sick, a surgery date, or waiting for a family move to a new neighbourhood/city/school. These situations all require waiting and we all can learn ways to make the waiting easier – for ourselves and for our friends and family.

I’ve often wondered out loud to the children if the author of this story might be telling us a little bit of a joke: Although she writes that we can’t be distracted if we really want to see a whale, aren’t there times when being distracted by these ordinary, but wonderful sights might just be a positive? Might noticing these everyday wonders help us be patient, help us in our waiting?

This book opens up all these ideas and I imagine sharing this book again and again.

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