Name of Book: Verdi
Author: Janell Cannon
Illustrator: Janell Cannon
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
Audience: Ages 3 – 7
Summary: Verdi is a tender tale about a young snake’s desire to stay yellow, young, fast, and adventuresome, avoiding his perceived horrors of becoming green: old!
Verdi enjoys youth: running fast, climbing high, eating anything, and roaming far. He fears growing green, lazy, old, and stationary. That is until one day when the young snake takes a giant fall and requires the healing care of his elders. Strapped to a branch for safety and mending, and with considerable time on his hands, Verdi hears the stories of his green caregivers and learns old snakes are not what they seem.
Literary Elements at Work: There are two distinct and equally compelling literary devices that invite the listener/reader along on this adventure—storytelling and artistry. Janell Cannon poignantly tells the risky journey of a young snake’s life from hatchling to adulthood. Additionally, known for her attention to detail, particularly when rendering critters of all sorts and conditions, Janell Cannon tells the snake’s tale using visually stunning art, expression, and vibrant color.
Scripture: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NRSV)
Theology: God has created us, creates us and promise to re-create us—all of us: green and yellow, young and old, fast and slow, rude and kind. Resting in God’s promises, we learn to embrace the whole of life with thanksgiving and joy.
Faith Talk Questions:
This story can serve as an illustration on our culture’s obsession with youth, our fear of growing old, and our lessening capacity to be still and listen.
Sit down beside your child. Let her turn the pages. Ask her what kinds of animals and insects and reptiles she sees on each page. Go outside and look for these creatures in your backyard. Spring is the perfect time to watch older birds, bunnies, and squirrels care for their young. Ask her, “How would the baby birds learn to fly without their mom and dad? How would they eat? How would the bunnies learn to hop? How would the squirrels learn to climb?” Without mom and dad, young wildlife depend on human creatures for their care—vets and naturalists at Discovery Place, the Carolina Raptor Center and the Nature Museum here in Charlotte. Visit some of these places.
Ask your child:
Verdi is afraid of growing old. Why?
Verdi takes a long hard fall and gets hurt. Who takes care of him?
While Verdi is healing, what does he learn about Aggie? Ribbon? Umbles?
When Verdi gets older, he meets two young and yellow snakes. What does he teach them?
How can young snakes and old snakes be friends? Suggest by listening to one another.
Children learn to listen to us through our ability to listen to them! When your child(ren) talk, be still and listen. Children learn to respect their elders when we respect our elders. When older folks need your time, attention, or assistance, give your time, attention, and assistance. Children learn to take care of creatures who are vulnerable: the sick, injured, dying, very young, elderly, poor when we care for those who are vulnerable. Jesus taught us to heal the sick; mend the injured; visit the dying; care for the very young and the old; and feed, clothe, and give drink to the poor. Perform these acts with your children.
Young and old need one another. The young teach us to run fast, climb high, sing loudly, cry when it hurts, and take a nap when we’re tired. The old teach us to be still, listen, tell stories, walk when you can’t run, and take a nap when we’re tired! Thank God for the young and thank God for the old!
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Kim Lee
Verdi by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.