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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.