I came across this book a few years ago while browsing Barnes and Noble's bookshelves. I began to read, and luckily my dad took a long time finding what he was looking for because I was able to finish it. Some time later, my high school junior Ethics teacher read it to us in class, stretching it out over a month. I finally purchased it last year.
This book is deceptively simple. With large hand-lettered words and pictures that fill the page, this nearly 100-page book can be read easily in one sitting. However, I think the author, by breaking it up into chapters, was trying to tell us that this is a story to be savored.
The story centers around Stripe, a small black and white caterpillar. We watch as he is born and eats his way through the first days of his life, much like Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Then, one day, he wonders if there is more to life than eating. Opening his eyes to the world around him, he sees a mountain of caterpillars in the distance climbing towards the sky. Intrigued, Stripe makes his way to the mountain and begins to climb.
A feverish frenzy overtakes him as he becomes more determined to reach the top, not knowing what is there. One day, he meets a caterpillar about his age and is talking to her when the pile shifts, and Stripe steps on her head to make his way further up the mountain. Soon he is so riddled with guilt that he finds Yellow and apologizes, and much to the astonishment of the other caterpillars they climb down together.
They are very happy together on the ground, and they spend their days hugging and eating to their hearts' delight. But Stripe begins to grow restless again, and he decides that he must find out what is at the mountain peak. Yellow sadly refuses to go, so Stripe returns to the brutal race alone. It seems even worse this time, and Stripe begins to wonder if it's really all worth it. He climbs, zombified, towards the top of the pillar, hardly caring anymore. But just as Stripe is on the verge of plunging into despair, Yellow discovers a wonderful secret that can turn Stripe's life around if he lets it...
This beautiful story of hope is illustrated entirely with simple white, black, and yellow line drawings. While it may hold the attention of a child, it is really an allegory geared towards adults. As it criticizes the mediocrity of those goals which seem so all-important to us at the time, it offers us hope for a much more satisfying existence. It does not come without cost, however; we must be willing to "throw off everything that hinders" and leave ourselves completely vulnerable. Only then can the magic work.
A wonderful gift for anyone who is experiencing a great change, "Hope For the Flowers" eloquently poses the question: Why crawl when you can fly?
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