WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT READY TO FLY? by Dev Petty
I wrote Moth & Butterfly Ta-Da! long before our lives were upended by a global pandemic and long before my daughter went to middle school and found herself on the wrong side of a friendship triangle. I also wrote it before my own life had some twists and turns. Now, as we edge to the other side of this collectively difficult time, and the fog clears in my own life, I’ve thought even more about metamorphosis, about who we become on the other side of difficult change.
A caterpillar goes from the singular goal of cheerfully chomping leaves to get plump to becoming a pupa, a chrysalis- where it essentially becomes liquefied and reorganized into something different. Eventually, something new pops out…a butterfly! While butterflies don’t, apparently, have the nervous system which makes this process painful, it doesn’t sound easy. But caterpillars aren’t deciding to change, it just happens. It might be if they knew what was in store for them, they’d say, “NO THANKS, pal, I’m happy with how my cells are organized. I think I’ll just sit here and stuff my face until I die.” But we don’t get to always choose what happens, or when. Sometimes we go through difficult things and we pop out on the other side, like it or not, we are different. We have been liquefied and reorganized. We have been through something and we may see the world differently now.
In Moth & Butterfly Ta-Da! (Illustrated by Ana Aranda, Nancy Paulsen Books) A moth caterpillar and a butterfly caterpillar begin a friendship. They don’t know then that not only are their lives about to change, but they themselves are about to also. Who they are. When they sleep, their very nature. Afterwards, they remember they are friends, but their friendship, just like their nature, will have to change. One sleeps in the day, one in the night. One likes sun, one shade.
Change is hard. The straight picture book angle might be to say, “Sure it’s hard, but look! You’re a beautiful butterfly, Hooray! The end.” But the truth is more crooked. Because there are surely kids out there, grownups too, who had a time- before a pandemic, a divorce, a death, a clique that they wish they could go back to, maybe a person they wish they could be again. And that’s okay. It’s just fine to look back on being a caterpillar and think, that was a simpler time. I was happy. I want to be them again. I liked them how they were.
But things do change and that’s when the work begins to write a story for a character who is different than before. To figure out what a happy ending looks like for a story you never intended to write. For the butterfly you didn’t want to be. For wings you didn’t want to have. I guess all you can do is stretch those weird, new things out, let em dry in the sun, and give them a try.
Available June 8th, wherever books are sold.
Dev Petty is the author of I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG (Doubleday) -along with a few other FROG books, CLAYMATES, MOTH & BUTTERFLY: Ta-Da! (Nancy Paulsen Books, June ’21), HOW OLD IS MR. TORTOISE (Abrams ’22), DON’T EAT BEES: LIFE LESSONS FROM HANK THE DOG (Doubleday ’22) and more to come. She likes books that make you laugh a lot and think a little, sometimes the reverse.
Before becoming an author, Dev was a senior visual effects artist on The Matrix films and many others. Dev lives in her native San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, daughters, dogs, cat, and a snake named “Boots”.