cover image Tadpole's Promise

Tadpole's Promise

Jeanne Willis. Atheneum Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86524-4

This book reads from top to bottom, rather than from left to right. Vertical spreads surrounded by a white border depict a love affair between a caterpillar (on a willow leaf on the upper page) and tadpole (in a pond on the lower half of the spread). ""She was his beautiful rainbow, and he was her shiny black pearl."" The tadpole promises the caterpillar never to change, but ""as sure as the weather changes, the tadpole could not keep his promise."" The caterpillar interprets each developmental change-tadpole's new legs, arms, and the disappearance of his tail-as signs of betrayal, and finally, distraught at her lover's perversity, crawls up her tree and ""cries herself to sleep."" A split-screen effect shows a wintry scene in which a cocoon rests on a barren branch against a gray sky while, below, the frog at the blue pond's bottom exhales in white heart shapes. A butterfly emerges, determined to forgive her lover. An already adult-themed tale then takes a rather sadistic turn: she flies toward the frog on a lily pad and then the frog ""swallowed her in one great gulp."" Although the setting remains consistent on each page, Ross (I Hate School) keeps readers' visual interest by depicting developmental changes in the characters, seasonal changes in the natural world and by including running sight gags involving the submerged antics of fish and tadpoles. Ages 4-8.