I Wish I Were A Butterfly
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by James Howe - Illustrated by Ed Young
Paperback; 32 pages; Harcourt Brace - Voyager Books (1987)
After the frog at the pond's edge tells him that he's ugly, the cricket of Swampswallow Pond loses his zest for life and for singing. The glowworm and the ladybug try to persuade the cricket that he's just as good as the rest of them, while the dragonfly declares, "Wishing is a waste of time." Finally, the Old One, a spider who lives on the other side of the pond, spins a wise tale about the real beauty of friendship and convinces the cricket to sing again.
The author tells the familiar story of the loss of identity and the uniqueness of individuals in a wistful, not particularly fresh, way. While Howe gives insects a human dimension, Young perceives that world with the eye of a cricket or a dragonfly, noting the color variations and luster on that particular wavelength. The resultant paintings are extraordinary, almost abstract works.