Meet the Creator of The Very Impatient Caterpillar
by Alexie Basil
Discover how Ross Burach—the creator of hilarious, vibrant picture books including Truck Full of Ducks, There’s a Giraffe in my Soup, and I Am Not a Chair!—was inspired to write and illustrate The Very Impatient Caterpillar in this Scholastic Book Clubs–exclusive interview.
From ducks to dogs and giraffes to bears, Ross Burach’s kid-favorite picture books are filled with colorful, energetic animals learning relevant lessons in quirky, hilarious ways.
This time, a caterpillar is the star of the show in The Very Impatient Caterpillar—and it absolutely cannot wait to become a butterfly already! We reached out to Ross to ask about:
• His inspiration for The Very Impatient Caterpillar
• How he envisions his work being used in learning settings
• Why he believes humor is an effective teaching tool
Read the interview below to learn more about Ross.
Did you like science as a kid?
I was not a big science kid. I was more into sports and drawing. But I was always a big fan of nature and being outdoors—the typical digging through dirt and finding worms. But now, I am constantly doing research on the animal world. There are so many incredible fun facts I read about that might lead to inspiration for my next picture book. Like, did you know a snail can sleep for three years, and slugs have four noses? I have a million of these.
You’ve written about (and drawn) caterpillars, ducks, dogs—how do animals find their way into your books?
Kids love animals. So it’s just a natural way to make a character relatable for kids. When developing Caterpillar, I basically equated a caterpillar being stuck in a chrysalis for two weeks to a kid being stuck on a two-week road trip. Plus animals are so much fun to draw. They have so many silly features that can be exaggerated for humor.
How do you envision this book being used in the classroom?
This book can be used in so many different ways in a classroom. Of course, it can be used to teach the butterfly life cycle, but also to teach patience and mindfulness. One of my favorite parts to read with students is when Caterpillar finally decides to be patient. Caterpillar goes through a few mindfulness techniques, like deep breathing, which can really help students learn to deal with frustrating moments. The book can also be used to teach speech bubbles and emotion. And, I guess, if a kid can’t reach something, maybe they can use it to stand on.
Can you talk a bit more about the process of being both a writer and illustrator of your books?
Being a writer and illustrator really affects my process. The best part about being both is that so much of the story, especially the humor, can be told through the pictures. With The Very Impatient Caterpillar, I wanted to create a book that beginner readers could read or start to become more confident in reading. It introduces a few big words, but the rest of the book has short dialogue and repetitive sight words. As an illustrator, I was able to convey the humor and impatience of Caterpillar through the extremely animated poses, without relying on too much text.
The book is really funny! What role do you want humor to play in your books—and in teaching kids important lessons like patience?
Thanks! I always write picture books I would have wanted to read as a kid. And those were always the funny ones. Kids are very smart, and they don’t want you to tell them a lesson. So humor plays the important role of helping me disguise the lesson. It’s basically like getting a kid to eat their veggies by putting the veggies in a yummy spaghetti sauce.
Do your students love books by Ross Burach? Which are their favorites? Share with us on social media using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
Ross Burach is the creator of the riotously funny picture books The Very Impatient Caterpillar, which the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books called “supercharged” in a starred review, and the acclaimed Truck Full of Ducks, as well as the board books I Love My Tutu Too!, Potty All-Star, and Hi-Five Animals!, which was named Best Board Book in 2018 by Parents magazine. Ross’s work can also be seen in the Acorn early reader series Bumble and Bee. Ross lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit him online at rossburach.com.
Photo Credit: © Joshua Keay