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.

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.