Found among the dusty shelves of The Community Bookstore in Cobble Hill, a 1973 children’s novel called Hope For The Flowers, written and illustrated by Trina Paulus.
“A Tale – Partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read).” Sounds like the ’70s!
I picked it up – and spent my grocery money to bring it home – because, let’s face it, I’m a huge sucker for a book with a textured paper and entirely written in hand lettering. The book has a graphic feel that seems like it was personally doodled for you, and the linear illustrations are carefully highlighted in shades of olive and yellow. Mmm.
The story is a thinly (okay – NOT at all) veiled metaphor for screwing the capitalist “man” and finding glorious, hippie enlightenment, with a cast of . . . fuzzy caterpillars? Yep, “Stripe” and his love, “Yellow”, meet climbing the corporate ladder, I mean, pillar of other caterpillars, clawing each other to get to the top, and decide to forsake the ladder for making some easy, breezy, caterpillar love and smoking eating grass.
But Stripe is not content, and abandons Yellow to go back to the pillar and succeed in getting to the top – only to realize that there’s nothing there (get it?). Meanwhile, Yellow learns to look within herself, let go, and transform into a shining butterfly. When Stripe finally makes it back down, she helps him see that there’s a butterfly in every one of us . . . caterpillar.
I was fascinated by the design and highly entertained by the look back at bohemian “revolutionary” ideals, but overall, I really don’t like philosophy dumped in my coffee – or in my children’s literature. I much prefer stories to be just as they are, because trying to be blunt about making a point makes the writing suffer – there’s too much explaining involved.
I also don’t believe that “enlightenment” is such a tangible state, either. There’s not a black and white of contentment between those who are driven to take part in mainstream America and those who don’t. I think happiness comes in a variety of forms for different people – and questing for the magic way to be forever a “butterfly” will probably leave you disappointed.
Hope For The Flowers, which I judged as a precious old find but actually has sold over 2 million copies, is definitely worth picking up – if only to see how different attitudes are now (and look at the rad hand-drawn look!). Peace Out!