Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book #283: Houdini: The Amazing Caterpillar by Janet Pedersen

Image from JanetPedersenArtStudio.com
From the day he was just a tiny egg on a bright green leaf, Houdini’s mother reminded him he was destined to do “amazing and magical things.” When Houdini grew into a caterpillar he went to live as a class pet. The students loved his amazing tricks; he could make a tasty leaf disappear, walk across a high stick without falling, and even shed his skin to grow bigger! But eventually new attractions drew the students away from Houdini and no matter how fast he ate to make leaves disappear he couldn’t get his audience back. Houdini was despondent, until one night he saw the large posters on the classroom walls, one for each stage of a butterfly’s metamorphosis, and Houdini knew that his next trick would be the most amazing and magical trick he had ever done!

The expressive illustrations use a combination of ink, watercolor, and digital media to create characters and settings out of loose brush strokes and lively colors. The text is written in third person, but from Houdini’s perspective. Houdini announces each of his tricks with humorous patter (“Ta-Da!”) that keeps the book from becoming just another story about a class pet. The text is incorporated into the illustrations, which often use panels and circles to move the story along in a visual manner. The book finishes with an author’s note that includes the inspiration for the book, as well as a brief explanation of the four stages of metamorphosis of a Monarch Butterfly.

Use this book to introduce the four stages of a butterflies life cycle. Pair it with titles such as Waiting for Wings or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Check out the Butterfly Site and Monarch Butterfly USA for photographs of each stage. Also watch this video that shows a Monarch grow from egg into adult. The video is about 5 minutes long and includes text with more facts about Monarchs.

Earlier this year I made tissue paper butterflies for a festival storytime (picture on the right). The kids started by gluing pieces of tissue paper to a rectangular piece of paper. Next, they took a second piece of paper that had a butterfly shape precut and glued it on top. Even if they didn’t glue any tissue paper onto the first paper (as often happens with 3 year olds), they still got a butterfly shape when they finished.

Try some pipe cleaner and paper butterflies, Family Fun makes them with recycled magazine pages, but you can use any kind of paper from tissue to construction to newspaper. You can also recycle your toilet paper tubes to make tube butterflies. Try attaching the butterflies to string or yarn and hanging them around the room. I also like this craft that that uses different shapes of pasta for each stage of the life cycle. For elementary school kids who have better dexterity, try this flapping butterfly craft.


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