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*Houdini the Amazing Caterpillar* by Janet Pedersen
Also illustrated by Janet Pedersen:

Sneezy Louise
Houdini the Amazing Caterpillar
by Janet Pedersen
Ages 3-6 40 pages Clarion September 2008 Hardcover    

Point of view makes all the difference in this delightful picture book combining science with literature. Depicting the life cycle of a caterpillar, the story begins with Houdini’s mother telling him as an egg, “You will do amazing and magical things.”

Houdini grows into a very cute, personable caterpillar who longs to perform remarkable acts. Living in a classroom full of children, he makes leaves disappear, crawls on “high-wire” sticks, and sheds his skin in the presence of an enthusiastic audience of young children. When other classroom animals start attracting attention, Houdini is sad, but then he recognizes stages of his life in classroom posters. Finally, he knows what his most important act will be. The suspense builds for the classroom children as Houdini first transforms into a chrysalis then emerges as a monarch butterfly.

Pederson takes a standard piece of primary curriculum and creates a wonderful story that lends itself to numerous opportunities for teaching reading strategies. Students will easily make connections between what they know from science to make predictions about the story. Set in a multicultural American classroom, students can immediately identify with the children in Houdini’s classroom and adore the fun, lovable caterpillar. Bright, colorful ink and watercolor illustrations extend the story and convey Houdini’s enthusiasm as well as the interest and eagerness of the students.

The author’s note explains her inspiration for the story and Houdini the magician, following with a description of the caterpillar’s life stages in straightforward, concise language, including a time frame for each stage of life. Paired with a nonfiction book such as Monarch Butterflies Up Close by Carmen Bredeson, Houdini the Amazing Caterpillar is a memorable story as it reinforces the key concepts of metamorphosis.

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  Kristine Wildner/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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