Title: Caterpillar Butterfly
Author: Vivian French
Illustrator: Charlotte Voake
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Children’s picture book, Non-fiction, Nature
Book format: Paperback
Description: One summer, when she was small, Vivian French and her grandfather watched a family of tiny caterpillar eggs turn, stage by amazing stage, into beautiful butterflies!
*Free copy provided by publisher as part of the ‘Nature Storybooks: Every Wonderful Word is True’ collection, for review…
Review: This is a great book to show kids how caterpillars become butterflies but I’m afraid I just didn’t find it as good as others in the Nature Storybooks series that I’ve read. The paperback, wider than A4 in width but shorter, is filled with thick glossy pages that contain both colourful illustrations and text. The book is a non-fiction which teaches all about the life cycle of a caterpillar to the stage it becomes a butterfly, but it has a story element making this easier for children to understand it.
The ‘story’, told from the point of view of the author herself, follows the little girl as she tells of the time she spent with her grandfather who grew stinging nettles in his garden because they help grow butterflies. The girl’s grandfather shows her the eggs on the leaves of the nettles and after waiting a while she sees them hatched into small caterpillars which soon grow big and eventually turn into butterflies. This story is good but it somehow didn’t feel as engaging as other similar ones by the same author like ‘Growing Frogs’ and ‘Yucky Worms’. I’m not sure if it’s the story itself though or the illustrations but something about this didn’t feel as interesting as those other books.
The illustrations are lovely and similar to some I’ve seen in other books. I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong or bad about the illustrations, they are lovely and in a style I do enjoy, however I can’t help but feel that, when compared to other books, there is a lot missing and the pictures could have had more. For example, when the butterfly is finally revealed, although we see it flying away, we never see its beautiful wings fully which would have made the story of the pretty butterfly all the more appealing. The illustrations, in parts, also make things like the peacock caterpillar’s white spots difficult to see. I only noticed any spots drawn the second time I looked at this book. It just feels like there could be more shown and perhaps this style of illustration, as lovely as it is, makes it hard to be as engaged as you could be reading this. Of course this is just my opinion.
The things that you learn about the caterpillars are interesting, like with other Nature Storybooks there are small snippets of text among the larger ones. These smaller snippets are in a font that was for me a bit difficult to read so I’m not sure if it will be easy for some children or not. The back of the book has a notes to teachers and parents section on how to use this book with kids and it supports Key Stages 1-2 of both Science and English so it’s a good book to use as a learning aid both in school and at home. The before last page also has extra pictures of different butterflies, their names underneath each one, which was a great addition as I didn’t know many species of butterflies and many kids might not either. However some of these pictures were again of the side-look of the butterfly and never the open wings which I think would have been good to see as butterflies can seem almost magical when you see some of their beautiful patterns. I think kids would engage much more if they could see these colourful wing images and it could give them a chance to spot these butterflies outside.
I do believe that this book could have been better, less text and more images perhaps or better and more colourful ones. But on the whole it is still a great book for teaching about the life cycle of caterpillars and how they turn to butterflies. Everything explained in the book is done in a simple and easy to understand way, and I found the autobiographical aspect of this book (the author writing of her own experience as the story) fun.
-Review first appeared online January 2018 – now republished here.
What do you think of this book? Are you or your children fascinated by caterpillars and butterflies? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂