A comfortably homespun children’s tale about caterpillars.
The story begins by introducing readers to a school for young caterpillars located near Lake George in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. On the first day of school in 1963, two caterpillars named Jan and Craig come there to teach music and history, respectively. They fall in love, get married and move to Canterbury, N.H., where they have four baby caterpillars named Amy, Jennifer, John and Sarah. The family lives on the Good Earth Farm, where Jan grows food, appreciates music, and teaches them all to love one another and every other caterpillar. When Jan gets sick, she visits her doctor who tells her that she’s changing and won’t be a caterpillar for much longer. She’s shocked and confused, and doesn’t understand why she can’t always be a caterpillar. The doctor also doesn’t know why, but offers the wisdom that “nothing that is living stays the same forever.” However, this doesn’t stop every caterpillar in the family, and their friends and acquaintances, from feeling very sad. Soon Jan finds that she can’t get out of bed, which scares everyone, as it means that she will soon cease to be a caterpillar. But when the time comes, something wondrous occurs: She stops being sick and blossoms into an entity more beautiful than a caterpillar—a butterfly with wings to carry her to a land filled with flowers and sunshine. All the caterpillars are upset that they can’t go with her, as they are still wingless creatures with dull coloring. But, one day, they feel the breeze from her wings when she flies invisibly above them. She speaks to them of pure love and tells them not to be sad, as she will wait for them to join her. The author and illustrator—a former public school teacher and his 8-year-old granddaughter, respectively—touchingly address the loss of a beloved spouse and grandmother in their debut book. The book’s strong specificity in its use of children’s names, dates and actual locations, and its drawings from its young illustrator, encompass the reader in a unique world. Ten percent of the book’s proceeds will support hospice centers, according to the book’s cover, which shows that its heart beats even louder than its heartfelt words.
An affecting children’s book that accessibly addresses an uncomfortable issue for both children and adults.