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Book Review: Lady Flatterley by Linda Wagner, Illustrated by Pearl L. Ollie

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Lady Flatterley is a rather insecure caterpillar — hiding in the leaves from the strong wind, heights, and suffering from a general sense of anxiety and insecurity. Longing for something more, she watches the winged creatures flying about her oak tree. A chance visit from a friendly butterfly sheds light on the transformation about to take place in Lady Flatterly’s life.

Written in rhyme, Linda Wagner’s story of the transformation from timid caterpillar to confident butterfly rejoices in the workings of God’s design. Told in rhyming prose, the rhyme scheme is off in places, and suffers from somewhat awkward phrasing and cadence; Lady Flatterley’s story could have been rendered more flowing through the use of straightforward narrative prose.

Featuring unique, large, full-page illustrations, Lady Flatterley acts out her drama of transformation against a backdrop of hand-drawn artwork by Pearl Ollie and real photographic backgrounds drawn from the digital photography of Jerry Hanzl. This rather unusual combination of realism and whimsicality certainly adds a different feel to the storybook, but I found it vaguely unsettling.

Wagner’s tale sheds a subtle light on God’s hand at work in the transformative process from fear to freedom, but, other than that, does little to add to the oft-used theme of metamorphosis in children’s literature. With so much previous exposure to the general storyline of caterpillars maturing into butterflies, the plot seemed rather trite and unimaginative.

However, Christian parents without a butterfly picture book in their collection may find this title a good choice if they can find a reasonably priced copy. Though Wagner seems to be suffering alongside other authors who have published with an overpriced self-publishing oriented press ($22.95 on Amazon for a 44 page paperback), it can be purchased directly from Wagner for a much more competitive $14.99.

When asking my six-year-old what she thought of Lady Flatterley she replied, “Umm, it’s okay, but I don’t like it as much as that book.” She pointed to a different picture book we’d read earlier that day. I’m sorry to say that I was never asked for a repeat reading, leaving no doubt in my mind that this title didn’t connect deeply with any member of our family.

It’s clear that Wagner has the best of intentions, and dearly loves the grandchildren for whom she penned this tale. But, when compared with the wide array of professionally produced picture books, it does seem rather lackluster.

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