Reviewed by Rosie Malezer for Readers' Favorite
Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar is the third book in the Loretta’s Insects series, written by Lois Wickstrom and illustrated by Francie Mion. While outside in a field of milkweeds, young Loretta enjoys watching all of the Monarch butterflies flying around the flowers. The next day, however, all of the butterflies are gone. Looking under the leaves of the milkweed plants, Loretta notices that each one has a tiny pin-sized egg. Loretta claims one of the eggs as her own. She names her egg Carthamus, before taking the egg and leaf home. Not permitted to keep the egg inside the house, Loretta tapes it outside to another plant. A few days later, Carthamus hatches from his tiny egg and is now a tiny caterpillar. When a hungry bird stops by, Loretta shoos it away in order to keep her caterpillar safe. Looking back at Carthamus, Loretta is amazed to see him eat what had once been his egg shell. He goes on to eat the leaf on which he had been hatched. When Carthamus’ skin is too small, it splits and he sheds it from his body before eating it. After shedding his skin four times, the caterpillar spins a silk cocoon around itself and hangs from underneath a leaf. After two weeks, a beautiful butterfly emerges from the cocoon, stretches its colorful wings and drinks nectar from the flowers nearby. It is not long before Loretta realizes that the milkweed field is filled with Monarch butterflies again, but as quickly as they had appeared, they are once again gone. The life cycle of the next generation begins.
I suddenly find myself fascinated with the life cycle of butterflies. Lois Wickstrom’s beautifully illustrated book presents the full life cycle, from birth to migration, while ending the book with illustrated fact sheets on milkweed plants and both male and female Monarch butterflies. The educational aspect of Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar is exceptional, as it backs up all reference materials for the information contained within the fact sheets with links to where the information had been found. A world map is also provided to show where Monarch butterflies can be found around the globe. Until reading Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar, I had no idea of the hardships and hurdles that a butterfly encounters before it has even grown its wings, with so many predators trying to eat it during all stages of its life, even during transformation within its cocoon. I very much enjoyed this fact-filled learning journey and recommend this book to all ages, not only to educate readers about how tough butterflies are, but also so they can differentiate between male and female when they see one. Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar would be ideally stocked in home and school libraries, making it the perfect resource book for school projects.