‘Tadpole’s Promise’ – A Bittersweet Love Story


‘Tadpole’s Promise’ is a children’s book about love. I first came across this last year, when my five year old brought it home in his school book bag.

Where the willow meets the water
a tadpole met a caterpillar.
They gazed into each other’s tiny eyes…
…and fell in love.
She was his beautiful rainbow,
and he was her shiny black pearl.
“I love everything about you,” said the tadpole.

Beautifully written by Jeanne Willis, and perfectly illustrated by Tony Ross, thus began the love story between the tadpole and his rainbow caterpillar.


The caterpillar asks the tadpole to promise that he will never change. The tadpole agrees, unaware of the many changes he is due to undergo. The next time the caterpillar comes to meet the tadpole, he has grown legs, and she is upset that he has broken his promise. The tadpole begs for forgiveness, saying he didn’t want the legs, he just wants his beautiful rainbow. She forgives him but again makes him promise that he will never change. The tadpole continues to change (grows arms, loses his tail), and the caterpillar, heartbroken that he has broken his promise, leaves.

As nature takes its course, the tadpole turns into a frog and the caterpillar into a butterfly. The butterfly realises that everything around her has changed except her love for the tadpole. She goes looking for him.

If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re wondering ‘what’s so bittersweet about this story?’, so here it is.

The butterfly approaches the frog to ask if he’s seen her shiny, black pearl but he doesn’t even let her finish her question as he jumps up and swallows her. The book ends with the frog sitting on his lily pad, wondering where his rainbow caterpillar went, not knowing that he just ate her and he’ll never see her again.

The ending left me shocked. Perhaps more so than my five year old. Maybe I’m too sensitive. Or the romantic in me was expecting a happy ending, with a dramatic reunion. The truth is, in real life you don’t always get happy endings… You might get eaten by your true love! Hahaha (Crying inside)! I can’t deny that this book is something special. The wording, the illustrations, the page layout… all helps to create the perfect setting for the not-so-perfect love story.

Have you read this book? What do you think of it? If you haven’t read it, I suggest getting your hands on a copy to read to your little one. Young, innocent minds have little or no expectations, so will enjoy the beauty of this tale. Lucky for you, you have been pre-warned so will not be as shocked as I was.

Jokes aside, I don’t know why this book got to me so much. Maybe it’s because, as parents we always want to protect our children. My boys only have two grandparents. This makes me really sad. For them to have felt the impact of death, first hand, breaks my heart. One night, when my eldest was four, he sat awake in bed, crying. All my attempts at consoling him were unsuccessful. Eventually, he calmed down enough to tell me what was bothering him, he said “when you pass away, all of the other children at the park will have their mum with them but I will be on my own” and he continued to cry. I didn’t know how to respond to that. I gave him a cuddle and told him I’m not going anywhere. So now, when I hear the news of someone passing away, I don’t always tell him. If that makes me overprotective, then I’m afraid I am.

I apologise for digressing and for my irregular posting pattern – I was planning to post this yesterday (thought it would’ve been appropriate), but if this book teaches us anything, it’s that things don’t always go as planned.

Happy thoughts!

Latifa xx

6 thoughts on “‘Tadpole’s Promise’ – A Bittersweet Love Story

  1. Holly schnitzel! Did not see that ending coming. It has a lot of Aesop’s fables in it. I found it absolutely great, but a bit too gruesome for a five year old to read! Then again, we grew up with Aesop’s fables and we turned out just fine. Mostly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is some really gruesome ending, to be honest.

    If you hadn’t warned that it was bittersweet, I’d have been hoping for some nice ending where the butterfly and frog hold hands and live happily forever after.

    Strangely reminds me of some nat geo docu that involved a lonely lioness and a game reserve guard or so. A lovely relationship budded between both parties but the man was wise to keep a distance. He noted that in spite of the lioness’ playfulness, she was still wild and he wanted to remain alive.

    Liked by 1 person

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