My Mouth is a Volcano

Julia Cook and Carrie Hartman
Chattanooga, TN: National Center for Youth Issues, 2005

Themes: interrupting, self-control, behaviour, listening, speaking, words, waiting, respect

Louis always interrupts. All of his thoughts are very important to him, and when he has something to say, his words rumble and grumble in his tummy, they wiggle and jiggle on his tongue and they they push on his teeth, right before he ERUPTS (or interrupts). His mouth is a volcano, but when others begin to interrupt Louis, he learns how to respectfully wait his turn to talk. Ages 4 and up.

As stated on the jacket, this is a book that deals with the universal challenge of teaching children the social nuances of polite conversation, not interrupting, and when to stop talking. It’s funny, and every child and parent will recognize the urge to say what comes to mind immediately!

This is an excellent tool to engage the topic of conversation being a two-way communication with both speaking and listening, and even more than that: that there is a time to wait and be quiet. There is a supplementary teachers guide available as well, of interest to parents, teachers and leaders of all kinds.

The Old, Old Man and the Very Little Boy

Kristine L. Franklin and Terea Shaffer
Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1992

Themes: aging, story telling, life reflection, young at heart

Description: An African boy loves to listen to the village elder’s stories.  “Inside this old, old man lives a very little boy,” says the story teller. The man can’t believe how fast time can pass, while the boy doubts that the old man could have every been young. When enough seasons pass, however, the boy, long grown, begins to speak of the inner youthfulness that he now experiences.

I’ve used this story to emphasize the value of story telling. Whether we’re the tellers or the listeners, there is something to learn. As is the case when teaching children, there are times when the understanding is immediate, and there are times where it’s more productive to think of the task as planting seeds. The wisdom of the old, old man wasn’t apparent to the child until he was much older and remembered the stories told to him, and how meaningful they were to him as a child. The story also opens the question of who is learning from whom. Is it always the story teller who is the teacher or can the inquirer be the teacher? Our questions and our wonder can be so helpful for us elders who often see ourselves as the communicators of wisdom. More often than not, the wisdom flows in the other direction.



Ollie and Claire


Tiffany Strelitz Haber and Matthew Cordell
Toronto: Philomel Books (Penguin Readers Group), 2013

Themes: friendship, routine, boredom, adventure


Description: Ollie and Claire are as tight as two friends can be. Every day they picnic together, do yoga together, and eat dinner together – all on a precise schedule. But when Claire longs to break free from this routine and dreams of traveling the world, she worries that Ollie would never join her. So she takes matters into her own hands when she  responds to an anonymous sign she sees posted in town: “Travel friend wanted for round-the-world journey! Come circle the planet with me!” Who could it be? And how can she ever tell Ollie that she’s leaving to have an adventure? Ages 3-7

I like this story because it might be just the right conversation starter for those who might feel the need to mix things up every once in a while…and who doesn’t? Even children can feel the weight of routines that don’t leave space for any adventure. I’m remembering my very free-range childhood where I’d have to fill whole weekends with either alone or with friends. How that differs from how many kids experience their young years today- with programs and schedules and with very little time to just explore and create fun from scratch. Digital screen time, while fine in small doses, doesn’t provide the same call for creativity and ingenuity.

  • What was Claire worried about when she started planning her adventure?
  • How would this story be different if Claire had talked to Ollie about wanting an adventure?
  • Is it fair to think of different friendships as providing us with different opportunities? Some more adventurous, some more safe and routine?
  • How much routine and how much adventure do you prefer? How do you balance them both?
  • What are some things we might do if we need a change in our routine?