4 out of 4 stars
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Children's books have the most amazing little plots. Even as an adult I'm amazed at the creativity authors come up with to get a message across or just be plain silly. The Caterpillar Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Stan Preece definitely succeeds at highlighting some very solid concepts for children, being quite silly AND utilizing a very unique plot. Really the title gives away half of the concept of the book - Callie is a caterpillar that was born in darkness and had a rough time escaping it, so she's been afraid of the dark ever since. This isn't a big deal since she found a nice tree branch to live on with a floodlight from the nearby home that's on all night, so she never really has to deal with darkness. Unfortunately she's been having these weird feelings about sleeping for a long time, and when Harry (a furry caterpillar) says he's been having the same feelings and will be going into a cocoon soon she ends up terrified of the idea of being in whatever a cocoon is for a long time!
From the very first page this is an adorable story. In fact, this is easily one of the cutest, most adorable children's books I've ever read. Callie derives her name from hearing a boy call her a "fat callipatter", and not knowing any better she adopts the name Callie. She mentions that she eats 4 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 4 suppers, and even this statement has two gems in it - first for the subtle mention of "second breakfast" (a great Lord of the Rings reference) and secondly because she says she calls it "supper", not "dinner", because she's in the South. The entire story is filled with quick wit like this which makes it much more entertaining for the adult doing the reading and gives lots of little things to focus on and explain to children on repeated readings.
The main focus of the story is on getting over a fear of the dark, which is something many children (and even plenty of adults) deal with themselves. Through talking to numerous friends like the adventurous Mouse, kind motherly Mrs. Goat and even a fearful spider that tries to eat Callie she learns various reasons that the dark is actually a good thing. In the process matters like eating with one's mouth full, predatory creatures and friendship are brought up as well.
The book is made up of 17 double-page images and contains a total of 12 images. The images are colorful, sharp and cute, depicting what's going on in the story. The animals are all cute (aside from the evil spider!) and look like they could be cartoon characters. Unfortunately the same praise can't be given to the text in the book - while the book is incredibly well written and perfectly edited (I didn't see a single error), the font in the images is tiny on my Kindle Fire even when turned sideways. I ended up having to click each image and zoom in on it so I could read it more easily, and even then since it's an image the font pixelated slightly. This was a nuisance for reading it on my own, but would be even worse when reading it to children.
Aside from this one oversight with the text this is a stellar children's book, and even with the issue I'd gladly recommend it. I'd give the book 3.5 stars if I could, but I just can't see deducting a whole star for the imperfect display of font when the book itself is so fantastic. I actually had a lot of fun reading the story, and Callie is an incredibly adorable little "callipatter" with a big personality. She's so cute, in fact, that I hope she ends up being the focal point of additional stories! My official rating is 4 out of 4 stars, and I recommend it to anyone who reads to their kids UNLESS they have a huge fear of spiders. It's worth mentioning that the spider bit of the story, although short, is a little scary and may give sensitive children (or those afraid of spiders) nightmares if read to them before bed. The fact that the story is a bit longer does lend itself to being a daytime read anyway, and if you can simply explain to your children that we humans (unlike caterpillars) are far bigger than spiders it will likely help anyway.
The Caterpillar Who Was Afraid of the Dark
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