WASHINGTON. Sometimes it can be hard for us to be patient. When we are excited, eagerly awaiting something, or just wanting a change in our lives to occur, it can be hard for any of us to wait. Children, especially, can experience trouble exercising patience. Without some age and real-world experience, children understandably cannot always understand that there are some things in life that cannot be rushed. But rest assured. The Very Impatient Caterpillar understands such things. But still, he just can’t wait to become a butterfly!
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Ross Burach’s new children’s book, The Very Impatient Caterpillar, opens as a growing caterpillar notices that all his friends are climbing up trees. Without him. When he asks them what they are doing, he is surprised and excited to learn that he can actually turn into a butterfly. Without a further thought, he joins his group of friends climbing the tree.
However, the caterpillar doesn’t know what is involved in the change. More problematic, he is too excited and impatient to wait for his promised, seemingly magical transformation to take place.
As he follows his friends up the tree, they soon introduce him to the concept of building a chrysalis, the place where their transformation will take place. Immediately, he quizzes them, asking them if they have already transformed. The others sagely tell him to be patient. But in his excitement, he remains simply too chatty and impatient. He continually disrupts the rest of the caterpillars going about their business, peppering them with his persistent question: “Am I a butterfly yet?” Eventually, they get around to telling him he needs to wait for two weeks.
But it’s hard for a caterpillar to wait
In a manner any parent can relate to, our caterpillar flips out at the terrible thought he will have to wait for two whole weeks for his transformation to occur. A comedic break down occurs before our eyes by means of little drawings scrawled across the page. After just three minutes, the caterpillar determines has already determined that his transformation is going to take forever. Concluding that enough time has passed, the impatient caterpillar emerges early, dripping with goop and disappointed to see that he has not really changed into a butterfly.
After a failed attempt to fly, the caterpillar decides that perhaps, patience is truly the best course on one’s way to becoming a real butterfly, even if patience is terribly difficult. Determined to stick it out this time, he spins himself another chrysalis.
The caterpillar continues to argue with himself, concerned over his ability to wait. No matter how determined he is, he continues to waver between moments of conviction and motivation and screaming impatience. Burach’s story line tracks the seemingly endless days until finally the two weeks of the caterpillar’s pupa stage have passed. Caterpillar – and his patience – are finally rewarded, as he emerges from his chrysalis with beautiful wings, now fully transformed into a butterfly at last.
Very Important Caterpillar: Outstanding artwork, too
The author’s delightful artwork in The Very Impatient Caterpillar is active and colorful. Both story and pictures assure that the caterpillar comes off as a silly yet endearing character. Children will certainly find him entertaining, and likely relatable as well.
Like a small child, caterpillar is very emotive. His facial expressions and body language transparently convey his moods and reactions. The author conveys his story on the page almost exclusively conveyed through familiar, cartoony dialogue bubbles. The minimal narrative consists of little else than the caterpillar’s barrage of questions. Later on, increasingly confined to his chrysalis, he can only talk to himself.
His confused interior dialogues constantly veer between encouraging moments of hope and desperate feelings of impatiene and dismay. This, plus the ease with which children can relate to how the caterpillar feels, making for a quick and pleasant read. Even better, there are no long descriptive paragraphs in this book, the kind of verbiage that often forces some young children to lose attention and give in to distractions.
Sneaking a little bit of useful science into the story
This book’s primary and most important lesson is about good things coming to those who wait. The Very Impatient Caterpillar also ties into elementary zoology and biology. It does so by teaching children useful lessons about caterpillars and butterflies transform from one stage to another as they grow. The book illustrates the stages of a butterfly’s growth and eventual emergence. The author traces nature’s story arc from the caterpillar stage through building the chrysalis. The story culminates in the now former caterpillar’s final emergence as a butterfly.
But the book conveys its science not through lengthy explanations, but through fun drawings. They cleverly depict our very dynamic (if not very patient) central character. The book itself introduces a few “big words” like “metamorphosis” and “chrysalis.” But it does so in a context that helps children understand, even as they silently build useful vocabulary. They can also identify once again with the caterpillar. Like most young readers, he, too, doesn’t know those words at the beginning. But everyone knows them at the book’s conclusion, including the caterpillar. By the end of the book, young audiences will be laughing with delight and beginning to use brand new words.
A video preview
Want a sample? Here’s a cute video that gives you the flavor of this book.
The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach was published on February 26, 2019 by Scholastic Press. It is available as a hardcover picture book or an e-book, and is recommended for children, ages 4-8. ISBN: 9781338289411
— Headline image: Cover illustration from Ross Burach’s new book, The Very Impatient Caterpillar, Scholastic Press.