cover image Becoming Charley

Becoming Charley

Kelly DiPucchio, illus. by Loveis Wise. Knopf, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-42904-4

In this be-yourself story by DiPucchio (Not Yeti), Charley may look like the rest of the monarch caterpillars around him, but while the others “kept their heads down, eating, just as they’d been taught,” Charley gazes dreamily up at the trees, the clouds, and the stars. His elders urge him to munch milkweed, the better to become “a big, strong butterfly,” but Charley wonders about being “a spotted fawn. Or a waterfall.” Part of the young caterpillars’ lesson is to gaze at monarch-patterned cards so they’ll know how to model themselves; Charley concentrates, instead, on wildflowers and mountains. Boldly hued digital spreads by Wise (Magnolia Flower) create a graphically simple caterpillar’s-eye view that’s loosely faithful to the natural world, highlighting monarch caterpillar coloration and the milkweed’s starry compound flowers. After the chrysalises of Charley’s cohort finally hatch and Charley isn’t among them, a final surprise reveals his new form, which reflects the character’s creativity as a young caterpillar. The idea that experiences and expectations shape creatures as they grow is gently and colorfully suggested, though, for the youngest readers, the difference between which elements are invented and which are fact may not be intuitively clear. Ages 3–7. Agent (for author and illustrator): Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)