Secret Garden

The Amazing Life of Caterpillars

Children - Educational
42 Pages
Reviewed on 09/02/2019
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Author Biography

An artist in her own right, Ms. Chiam Fei Fei is a versatile and talented art maker and choreographer.

Well-versed in various art forms, She expresses most of her emotion through her beautiful choreographies that have a touch of style which is uniquely hers. Audiences who have viewed her repertoires often left the theatre in awe and described it as breathtaking. Her works were presented in arts venues including the Esplanade Theatre, Victoria Theatre, Kallang Theatre, National University Centre For the Arts- UCC Hall, UCC Theatre. Through her work, Ms. Chiam Fei Fei has impacted not only her life but also of those around her.

Founder of English Ballet Academy, Ms. Chiam is an associate of the Royal Academy of Dance UK. She is also a FIG and national registered gymnastics coach. Through her years of experience, Ms. Chiam has received awards such as “Most Creative Award” and “CCA Coach Excellence Award”. Moreover, she was the first person to ever perform the Solo Seal Award in Singapore. These achievements have gained the admiration of her students.

What makes Ms. Chiam unique as an artist is her ability to let her students enjoy the process of learning. Ms. Chiam has always had faith in each of her students and has never given up on them. She has gained her students’ utmost respect not only because of her exceptional skills and creativity, but also the warm personality that is to care for her students and the people around her.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

Another creative take on children’s picture books is Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars by Fei Fei Chiam. Simple yet engaging, it poetically narrates the life cycle of butterflies in short bursts of verses per page. While the grownups among us are well aware of a butterfly’s cycle from egg to adult, Chiam adds a little element of fantasy in the middle of the process by involving fairies as instrumental elements in the creation of butterflies. While picture books are traditionally illustrated, Chiam highlights her tale with photography of young girls on stage in a ballet performance, depicting through dance the lepidopteran coming of age. She dedicates this short read to all children, that they may become curious about the things around them.

Sublimity resides in the simplicity of this tale. Mostly young girls would find this story charming with its visual metaphor of young ballerinas as flowers, caterpillars, fairies, and butterflies. The photography is arresting. As readers are invited to explore a butterfly’s development, the ages of ballerinas also change--performers designated as flowers and caterpillars are grade schoolers, while butterflies are young adults. Secret Garden was originally a ballet performance and this book allows us to take part as an audience. As both author and photographer, Fei Fei Chiam succeeds not only in telling a story but also in inspiring children to aspire for greater things. Meticulous parents of early readers will find this book a delight. It is a feel-good, inspirational picture book that will not disappoint.

Jack Magnus

Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars is an educational concept book for children written and directed by Fei Fei Chiam, with additional photography by Haruhiko Otsuka, Guek Peng Siong, and Tan Kay Hian. The author is a director and choreographer who pairs her story about the life cycle of caterpillars as they grow and turn into butterflies with the ballet performances of young ballerinas. Each full-color photograph chronicles the life cycle of the butterfly beginning with the first announcement of the spring season -- the sight and scent of flowers as the caterpillars emerge. We follow their lives as they learn to control their ungainly bodies and experience the new world they’ve found themselves in and eventually begin to find quiet places for their next incarnation and celebrates with them as they morph into their butterfly magnificence.

Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars is a creative and utterly gorgeous book that introduces children to dance and the way that the life cycle of the butterfly can be expressed through dance. The photographs are stunning, and the performances by those young dancers make this book sparkle and give it life. This is a grand selection for young and aspiring dancers which will give them a new perspective on all the hard work and exercises they do in class. The amazing photography should also inspire kids to go out and take their own pictures --at performances in school as well as out in nature. A perfect choice for storytime, Secret Garden is also suitable for young readers to try on their own. Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars is most highly recommended.

Sarah Stuart

Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars by Fei Fei Chiam has a beautiful dedication, encouraging its young readers to be open to the world around them. The first picture, entitled Little Flowers, features seven young ballet dancers, each revealing a different attitude to life, from confident enjoyment to one who has her face turned away from the camera. The story opens as winter gives way to spring and flowers begin to bloom and perfume the air. Most of the pages carry stunning, colorful photographic illustrations with caterpillars represented by the young dancers in expressive poses. They show the essence of caterpillars beginning to explore, search for food, and grow until the time comes for them to find a safe place for their cocoons where they will sleep before emerging as butterflies.

Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars is spectacularly different from any other book for young people I have ever seen. The photographs in all four sections, Little Flowers, Caterpillars, Fairies of Life, and Metamorphosis, are so cleverly choreographed that I could hear ballet music in my head and smell the scent of flowers. My favorite photograph – not an easy choice – is the slightly hazy one that introduces section two. My delight apart, the small amount of text explains very clearly and concisely the metamorphosis of caterpillars to butterflies. In Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars, Fei Fei Chiam, with a group of exquisite dancers, has produced an enchanting and educational gift for the children in your life.

Sefina Hawke

Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars by Fei Fei Chiam is an educational children’s book that would appeal most to an audience of young girls and their parents, especially those who enjoy ballet and dance. The author teaches children about butterflies, metamorphosis, and life through both words and pictures. The book is designed not just to teach children, but also to entice them into the fascinating worlds of nature, magic, and dance.
 
Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars by Fei Fei Chiam is a book filled equally with both words and pictures that combine to offer a unique lens for teaching children about butterflies and dance. The book might be mainly designed to teach those two topics, but after reading, I feel like it also serves to teach lessons to young girls about life and growth as well. As I read this book, I felt like I was reading a play or a dance as the combination of dance pictures and words allowed me to imagine the dance unfolding in my head quite clearly as I read.

I liked the way the author kept the word choices as simple as possible so that the content would be understandable to children and not filled with scientific jargon. The pictures were all simply beautiful and they all appeared to be action shots of young dancers and then adult dancers. Overall, this book would be perfect for young children learning about metamorphosis as it made the process so much more interesting than any children’s science book that I have ever read!

Donna Gielow McFarland

I knew Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars was going to be a different sort of book when I read on the title page, “authored and directed by” Fei Fei Chiam. And then the dedication to all children includes the words, “grow into the beautiful butterfly that you are meant to be.” The Secret Garden is a story told in five parts beginning with little flowers blooming in the springtime and the emergence of wriggly, clumsy caterpillars. Then, of course, the caterpillars make their cocoons and undergo metamorphosis to turn into beautiful butterflies. The story of the changing of a caterpillar into a butterfly is enhanced with the addition of little flower fairies that help the caterpillars along, but that’s not what makes Secret Garden so unusual.

The story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly is hardly unique among children’s picture books. What makes this version so original is that every stage is illustrated with photographs of perfectly choreographed dancers. In the early stages of the life of caterpillars, the dancers are all adorable young children, but as the story progresses the text is illustrated with photographs of older children dancing, and then adults. Produced and published in Singapore, Fei Fei Chiam’s Secret Garden is part of SHINE, a series of productions using original choreography. I have never seen anything quite like it. The words are lovely and the dancers exquisite. Secret Garden: The Amazing Life of Caterpillars is a feast for the eyes. Recommended for little girls who love to dance and for people of all ages who appreciate the arts.