If at First You Do Not See

December 4, 2017

This caterpillar misplaced his hookah.


What on earth? This is an acid trip of a book. It's a series of images that appear different when turned upside-down. So it looks like a basket of fruit when the book is right-side-up, but if you turn it upside-down it kind of looks like a man. It kind of reminds me of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the painter who made lots of surreal portraits entirely out of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other things.

The bizarre storyline that's tenuously holding it together is a butterfly telling her caterpillar children (as if butterflies actually raise their young) to eat some leaves, and one caterpillar says, "These are boring! I want something more appetizing!" and goes on a trip to try to eat random things that all turn out to be upside-down creatures of some kind. Like really bizarre, monstrous creatures. And eventually the caterpillar gets exhausted and falls asleep on a scarecrow who looks like some straw from the original perspective, who then puts the caterpillar in his pocket. The caterpillar comes out, falls down, and is afraid of something that turns out to be leeks. He's afraid of something else that turns out to be a butterfly, and then realizes that he himself has turned into a butterfly, and then flies away.

What?! I think the caterpillar did eat something, and I think it was hallucinogenic. Because this book makes very little sense. The story line is bizarre. Caterpillars don't just suddenly turn into butterflies. They have to prepare for it, you know? Become a chrysalis and all? Even if a caterpillar were intelligent, he wouldn't be surprised by the fact that he had turned into a butterfly.

The text layout is interesting in that it goes around all four of the edges of the page, to show you that you need to be turning the book to see the upside-down images. It's an interesting way of bringing the text into the picture-flipping conceit. But the flipped pictures are bizarre and in some cases quite a stretch. Basically, this a book about pareidolia, and seeing faces where there are none. The artist is clearly having fun with that, but it doesn't really make for that interesting of a book. There is no message to this book. It doesn't make any sense.



Publication Year
  • 1982
Age Range
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Number of Pages
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Number of Words on Typical Page
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