This is such a fun little book, and not only because you read it sideways. I had never even heard of this book until I went to a seminar on "What's new in YA Literature." This, of course, is not YA literature. It's a picture book; but the gentleman in charge of the seminar, Mr. Jonathan Hunt (of the School Library Journal's Heavy Medal blog) talked about how he used it to illustrate irony with older students. It is utterly perfect for that, although I would question reading it to preschoolers as they very well may be scarred for life. It is a seemingly sweet little story up until the last pages where it turns deliciously macabre.
So, here's the premise:
And the caterpillar and the tadpole promise each other that they will never change. Which is their first mistake. The tadpole begins to grow legs, then arms, then he loses his tail:
"You have broken your promise three times, and now you have broken my heart," said the caterpillar.
"But you are my beautiful rainbow," said the tadpole
"Yes, but you are not my shiny black pearl. Goodbye."
The caterpillar cries herself to sleep then she wakes up:
Everything has changed! There is no more shiny black pearl or beautiful rainbow. Now there is a butterfly and a frog. BUT (and this is crucial) THEY DO NOT KNOW THEY HAVE CHANGED. So
Our buttefly sees a frog sitting on a lily pad, and she starts to ask him where her shiny black pearl is, but before she can even finish. HE EATS HER!! (In one great gulp). Now, of course, you have probably figured out by now, that this frog is the tadpole from the beginning of the story all grown up. Alas, he did not recognize his lady love.
thinking fondly of his beatiful rainbow...
Isn't that too awful in a sort of amusing way? It's a beautiful book, lovely lyrical prose, and delightfully cute illustrations. I do often fear some parent is going to unknowingly pull it off the library shelf and read it to his or her child and then have to deal with awkward questions. Oh well.