I am looking for a book that was read to my second or third grade class by a substitute teacher, and I believe this was around 1963 or 1964. Our regular teacher was ill and replaced by a young substitute, who craftily kept our attention by beginning each class reading one chapter of a book. She hooked us on her very first day, and we came to school each day craving another chapter like crack addicts needing a fix.
The story was essentially Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ for children. Here’s what I remember of the story, and time may have dimmed the details a bit:
1. Three children are spending the summer in the country.
2. They are largely unattached and indifferent to the surroundings and ambivalent about their summer vacation.
3. Somehow, all three are transformed into insects: the older sister becomes a caterpillar, the youngest, from whose eyes we see the story, becomes an ant, and an older brother, I think becomes something else.
4. They encounter daring and frightening adventures, and at the end of the book, they are faced with the possibility of returning back into humans, but the sister, who by this time, has transformed into a butterfly, opts to remain an insect.
This is all I can remember, but what struct me the most about the story was an overarching feeling of melancholy versus a typical children’s book happy ending.