Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends

S. & S./Simon Spotlight. (Ready-to-Read Graphics Level 1). Jan. 2023. 64p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665920018; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781665920001.
PreS-Gr 2–Windness’s comic for young readers explores the nature of evolving relationships with gentle humor. The titular earth-bound friends carry out a simple, flowing conversation as they idyll through a fall day. Worm assumes they understand a static set of facts about their friend, and Caterpillar patiently and deliberately challenges their assumptions. Worm tries to discuss the similarities between themself and Caterpillar, like their lack of legs (Caterpillar has legs!), their dirt-based diet (wrong again!), and their mutual fear of birds (this one’s true!). But while Worm clings to the present moment, Caterpillar carefully tries to prepare them for the future, since caterpillars, of course, must change in a rather dramatic fashion. Though the direction of the plot is well-worn—a caterpillar becomes a butterfly—the emotional interplay between a friend seeking surface similarities and a friend nourishing a deep connection is subtle and satisfying. What sets this title apart from similar tales of animal amity are Windness’s full-page watercolor backdrops, deep and rich with purple, green, and orange, conjuring a magical, fading fall twilight. Windness also brings a buzzing energy to her characters, with raised eyebrows and body language between the pair doing as much work as words.
VERDICT A straightforward, satisfying treatise on friendship weathering difference and change, with richly colored, lively illustrations, this title offers a lovely, light reading experience for early readers.

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