Sometimes, readers ask me why a number of my books have the word “Very” in the title. After The Very Hungry Caterpillar had been published I wanted to create a “Very” quartet. Why a quartet? I liked the idea of a group. But also, I must admit that I had been taken by the sound of The Alexandria Quartet, written by Lawrence Durrell, which I read a long time ago. The story of which I cannot much recall, but the sound of these three words, The Alexandria Quartet have remained with me. Ideas, or a speck of an idea, come from the darndest places! I proceeded to write and illustrate Spider, Cricket and Firefly and completed my quartet. But what should happen? A tiny voice whispered to me “quintet” And so the Click Beetle was born.
However, each “Very” book came about in a different way. The Very Hungry Caterpillar had a sort of accidental beginning in that I was punching holes into a stack of papers. I knew right away that the spider in The Very Busy Spider would be the hero, but it took me a long time to come up with the idea of a raised web. (In the first book the hole was the given – the caterpillar followed. In the second book, the spider was the given – the raised web followed.) With The Very Quiet Cricket, my third Very book, I knew from the beginning about the insect and the sound. In my fourth Very book, The Very Lonely Firely, I knew I wanted a different kind of surprise at the end. And with The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, the fifth book in my quintet, the theme of perseverance, that one must try and try again, was where I began.
Now I have a complete quintet. Five movements exploring a theme. I sometimes feel like a composer of music – and why not!
I hope you have enjoyed these thoughts on my Very books and my musings on how these compositions came to life. Be it crickets or humans, we can only make music when the circumstances are right. I didn’t invent that, I only observed it.