Library hosts very hungry guest

Restless energy exuded in Calera Public Library’s meeting room. Youngsters sitting cross-legged squirmed as Library Director Janet Greathouse talked about a special guest they would soon meet.

She introduced “Miss Debra” Odom, who traveled with the guest from Montgomery. As Greathouse made the introduction, I looked over the sea of fidgeting bodies. This lady had her work cut out for her, I thought.

“I’m looking for a bff,” Miss Debra said. “Who knows what a bff is?” Hands and bodies shot up in the air.

Undaunted by the energetic crowd, Miss Debra found a bff — best friend forever — and handed him a Smiley Face beanbag. Her bff was to hold it or share it with someone who needed a smile.

Miss Debra informed the children she had bad news — someone was missing. She found three helpers to find the missing guest, equipping them with sunglasses and pickles. She instructed them to watch for something strange.

“The missing guest is red-headed, green and very nice,” Miss Debra said. “The guest is a great listener, makes me laugh and loves to eat.”

Miss Debra held a photograph of a young boy born June 25, 1929, in Syracuse, New York. The boy loved to paint, and images of crayons, carpet squares, paintbrushes and a hole puncher filled his head.

The boy was Eric Carle and this year marks the 40th anniversary of his well-loved book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” It has won numerous awards and 30 million copies have been sold since published in 1969.

Carle’s book was inspired by a hole puncher.

“Mr. Carle was sitting and punching holes with a hole puncher into a stack of papers when he came up with the idea for the book,” Miss Debra said.

The story follows a caterpillar as it eats a variety of foodstuffs before pupating and emerging as a beautiful butterfly. It is reminiscent of Carle’s childhood, when he thought he would never grow up and do what grown-ups do.

As the children imitated a caterpillar pushing and nibbling through a cocoon, the special guest appeared. With the hungry caterpillar’s help, Miss Debra read the book to a now morphed group of attentive listeners.

Debra Odom’s program is available to childcare centers. Contact her at 256-749-6960.

Greathouse reminds parents that preschoolers still meet on Thursday. Pea-pods (crawlers to 2 years) meet at 9 a.m. and Sprouts (more than 2 years old) at 10 a.m.