Martin’s posthumous release rests in illustrator Ehlert’s capable hands, resulting in a picture book that delivers on his reputation as a master of engaging, rhythmic, rhyming text as it presents some of Ehlert’s best work to date. Arresting jacket art introduces 10 little caterpillars munching on a verdant, heart-shaped leaf against a white background. Open, white backgrounds of interior spreads allow the collages’ vibrant colors to stand out in clean, visually dynamic spreads that invite readers to pore over the flora, other creatures and the caterpillars themselves who populate the pages. Each caterpillar from the jacket gets its own spread, with one climbing a cabbage head, another carried off to school in a jar and another falling into the sea. The 10th caterpillar, however, becomes a butterfly in a satisfying, if predictable, culmination of the verse. But wait—there’s more! Concluding pages identify each caterpillar in sequence, provide readers with information about what they eat and reveal the kinds of moths and butterflies that result from their metamorphoses.
"In this attractive counting book with a scientific flair, 10 little caterpillars creep and crawl through gardens, vegetable patches, and apple orchards.... Ehlert’s watercolor collages, presented in the style of botanical illustrations complete with identifying labels, eloquently re-create the natural habitat of each creature.... An imaginative introduction to ordinal numbers and the process of metamorphosis."
Ten little caterpillars are introduced, one by one, as they search for good places to form their chrysalides. Some do well, wriggling among melons and flowers, but others are less lucky, running into a hungry wren or splashing into the sea. The 10th caterpillar makes his way into a fruit-laden apple tree, waits through the winter in his chrysalis, and emerges among the spring flowers as a tiger swallowtail.
In addition to simply explaining a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly, the book offers a glimpse of a caterpillar’s physical world. The end pages identify each of the 10 caterpillars, what they like to eat, and what they look like as butterflies and moths. Flora and fauna throughout the book are helpfully labeled.