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Caterpillar's Surprise

NEW December 2, 2021

By Janet Halfmann

Illustrated by Emily Krueger

Black Rose Writing

Ages 3-8, Fiction Picture Book: hardcover, softcover, e-book

Buy at IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Black Rose Writing, and other booksellers


PODCAST: Janet talks about her inspiration for Caterpillars Surprise, her other books, and her writing journey. —Reading With Your Kids Podcast



1st Prize, Children's Nature Books, 2022 PenCraft Awards

2022 Best Children's Book Finalist: Maxy Awards


The Story

A masquerade ball with a blue ribbon! Caterpillar dreams of winning, but wonders how she can since she is just a baby. Tadpole convinces her that her natural baby disguise as bird poo is perfect.

As Caterpillar grows, her look changes, and she worries again. Tadpole tells her she now looks like a scary snake, and is sure to win! Then . . . just weeks before the ball, Caterpillar spins a chrysalis and hangs unmoving from her tree. Now, even Tadpole (who is changing into a frog) is worried.

Will Caterpillar break out of her chrysalis in time? And if she makes it to the ball, will she still think winning is the most important thing of all?

My Inspiration

I was inspired to write this story about caterpillars and butterflies and metamorphosis after watching monarchs and tiger swallowtails and more flutter around our backyard. The more I studied butterflies and their amazing lives, the more enamored I became. Then after an editor read my butterfly story, she suggested that I add a frog and have the two grow up  together. And so was born this story of a caterpillar and a tadpole who become friends and share adventures as they face big changes together.

Educational Connections

caterpillar, tadpole, butterfly, frog, metamorphosis, animal disguises, life cycles, growing up,  friendship, contest

Educational activities to go with Caterpillar's Surprise: Growing with Science Blog


PODCAST: Janet talks about her inspiration for Caterpillar's Surprise, her other books, and her writing journey —Reading With Your Kids Podcast 

Book Journey of Caterpillar's Surprise: Writing and Illustrating 

Why Janet writes, inspiration, and more: Kid Lit Village 


"In this endearing picture book, Halfmann adroitly weaves facts about metamorphosis into the tale of a caterpillar and a tadpole who face the challenge of maintaining a friendship during the transformations that occur while growing up. It is a captivating glimpse into the natural world with a memorable and heartwarming ending." —Rorberta Gibson, entomologist and author of How to Build an Insect.

"Caterpillar's Surprise is a delightful tale of camouflage, recognition, and friendship. Its lively language, endearing characters, and fascinating life cycle facts will surely appeal to nature lovers of all ages. Three cheers for Janet Halfmann, Emily, Krueger, and this sweet, satisfying story!" —JoAnn Early Macken, author of more than 135 books for young readers

"Gentle humor, embedded poems, characters to root for, and a compelling story centered around an animal masquerade ball make this Janet Halfmann tale a winner. Emily Krueger's detailed illustrations set the scene and show creatures' emotions and transformations. What a fun way to see the different stages of animal development and the value of friendship!" —Jane Healy, library associate.



"Another original and entertaining picture book story for young readers by author/storyteller Janet Halfmann, and charmingly embellished by the colorful illustrations of artist Emily Krueger, "Caterpillar's Surprise" is especially recommended for family, elementary school, and community library children's picturebook collections." —Midwest Book Review


"Caterpillar's Surprise is a fun story with positive messages about change and body images as well as environmental literacy concepts about camouflage and metamorphosis. I loved Tadpole's rhyming songs and body positivity. Caterpillar and Tadpole have a wonderful and encouraging friendship. The changes in both animals are shown through beautifully drawn cute but realistic illustrations." —Mishker, Library Thing


"This is a sweet story that is also educational. Caterpillar's Surprise takes young readers through the physical changes for Caterpillar and Tadpole, while showing how they create a special friendship along the way. Emily Krueger's artwork is so vibrant and so full of emotion that the reader is captivated by the images as much as by the prose . . . A perfect gift for lovers of nature, curious minds, and those who enjoy wonderful stories with lessons hidden inside."  —The Children and Teens Book Connection

"A charming children's picture book, delightfully illustrated in shades of pale green, blue, gold and brown—nature colors that resonate with the themes explored of transformation, friendship, and the wonder of the naturel world around us." —BooklyMatters


"Beautifully illustrated this book is perfect for young insect enthusiasts. Parents and teachers can discuss the various insects and other critters and their transformations." —Kristi's Book Nook

"CATERPILLAR'S SURPRISE is a sort of 'coming of age' story for the younger set, incorporating a charming story, rhymed passages, and a friendship that wins the prize." —Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

"It is a stunning book of friendship, self discovery, camaraderie, encouragement and self acceptance amidst educating about the metamorphosis of a butterfly. . .The masterstroke are the illustrations that add detail to the story that helps connect with young readers. . .I recommend this book to not just kids but every person who loves nature especially butterflies." —Not Just a Librarian blog by Sigy George, Sr Librarian in Delhi Public School, Vasant Kunj

"Caterpillar's Surprise helps young readers empathize with friends who might struggle with experiencing other changes in their lives that are not under their control. The message of the importance of friendship regardless of circumstances shines through." —Growing with Science Blog

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