Sunday 20 June 2021

The Woolly Bear Caterpillar

The Woolly Bear Caterpillar by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Yuval Zommer (Macmillan) HB RRP $26.99 ISBN 978152912187

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This beautifully illustrated picture book is by the author of the immensely popular book for young readers, The Gruffalo. In a lush garden, full of plants and insects, lives a woolly bear caterpillar which loves eating dandelion plants. However, when the dandelions are pulled up by a gardener, the caterpillar must crawl off in search of new ones. On its way, it meets ‘the queen of the sycamore tree’, another caterpillar, but this one has long yellow and orange hair. Further along the woolly bear caterpillar meets another colourful caterpillar, then another and then several more. All expect to become beautiful moths but tell the traveller they don’t expect it will be exceptional.

Eventually each of the caterpillars spin a silky coat (a cocoon) in various places. Weeks go by and then moths are hatched. Each of them looks ‘rather dull’ and ‘quite plain’. As moths, they search for the woolly bear moth. They find it – ‘a lovely orange, black and white moth’ with ‘splendid blue spots’, and a body ‘striped like a tiger.’ No longer a caterpillar, it is now a garden tiger moth, ‘the colourful queen of the air.’

Brilliantly written and stunningly illustrated, this engaging picture book comes complete with a non-fiction book written by a nature specialist. The booklet tells of real-life caterpillars and moths which were the inspiration for the characters in this picture book for young readers aged 6+ years. We learn, for example, of the moth’s life cycle from egg to caterpillar to pupa to adult. Some moth, it tells us, do not need to eat but survive on the energy they stored as caterpillars. As for the garden tiger moth, it can squirt a stinky yellow fluid at its enemies from behind its head!

There are a lot of interesting facts and even a glossary to read in this lovely, value-for- money book.

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