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Summary: Zachary is a city boy, but he loves to visit Juju (his grandmother) and explore her big backyard. Last year, he adopted a tiny, green caterpillar as a pet. He named her Cali, and even flew home with her! Even though Zachary took good care of her, she wanted to go back to California. But how would she make it home? Explore friendship in this picture book about a boy who discovers a very special caterpillar.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 9 to 12
Interest Level: 4 to 8
Reading Level: 4.7
Age of Child: Read with 6½-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter loves caterpillar/butterfly stories, but we had a hard time engaging her with this one. On the cover, Cali has a texture (and glitter), and she immediately thumbed through the book looking for other pages to touch. Once she discovered that, it didn't matter that the book had a butterfly.
Adult Reader Reaction: Cali is an adorable, most expressive caterpillar. The story is sweet and has some humor (a caterpillar on an airplane?), but when the author transitions to speaking for Cali, the story begins to falter. Cali doesn't build a cocoon as part of her "plan" to go back to California, it is a natural part of a caterpillar's life.
Pros: Children will relate to Zachary, both as an explorer and as a caterpillar's best friend.
Cons: Even as an early reader, our child wants books she can connect with physically. Although the author didn't mean to "tease" the reader, for a child who needs that tactile stimulation, stopping at the cover is a let-down. Be prepared for a pet caterpillar. The author makes it seem as though there are just a "few days" between when a caterpillar cocoons and the process of metamorphosis.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a sweet story, and preschoolers in particular will relate to Zachary and Cali.
Educational Themes: The author fills the book with great tidbits about caterpillars: what they like to eat, their natural habitat, and their metamorphosis. Use the book to explore your yard. Just be prepared: kids will likely want to find a caterpillar and bring them indoors to watch them become butterflies. Together, you may want to do some research (or visit a nature center) to learn how long it reallytakes for a caterpillar to become a buttefly.
Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 4.7
Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, animal fantasy