Herman and Marguerite

Herman and Marguerite; An Earth Story by Jay O’Callahan. Illustrated by Laura O’Callahan. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree P'ublishers, 1996. ISBN 1-56145-03-7 HC $15.95

Jay O'Callahan needs no introduction to the readers of this publication. A world renowned story teller, he has been on radio and television, as well as on countless festival and theatre stages. His audio recordings, (some of which were reviewed in the SSR vol.1, No.1) have received no fewer than seven prestigious awards.

In fact, the story of Herman and Marguerite probably needs no introduction to many of you since it is already a success on audio and video cassette, and the characters are available as felt finger puppets. With the publication of this book, the story is now available for young readers to enjoy. It is the story of the friendship between an earthworm named Herman who lives beneath an orchard, and a caterpillar named Marguerite who lives above in the orchard. The orchard itself is a quiet and lonely place with no bees, butterflies, or apples. In the course of the story, Herman learns to value what he is, and the importance of his work as a worm.

He also gains the confidence to join Marguerite in singing, and together the two of them bring the buzz of life back to orchard. Young readers will learn facts they might not have known before about earthworms, both in the story, and in the three pages of facts and activities which follow it. The illustrator, O' Callahan's daughter Laura, reminds us of the oral origins of the story by using photos of her father at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the book. It's a great touch, made possible by the collage form of illustration, and it serves to remind us that we are being told a story, and that these are a storyteller's words translated to the page. I was going to say immobilized on the page, but I don't think O' Callahan's words are ever immobile. The words of Herman's and Marguerite's songs call out to be put to some tune by the reader or teller, and the description of the orchard's gradual reawakening is a dance of life.

Laura's collages are vivid and animated and generally well suited to a book which will
probably be used in group situations in schools and libraries. They meet the challenge of a story which has sections that are dependent on dialogue and ideas rather than physical action or plot movement. Peachtree Publishers, Ltd. 494 Armour Circle, N.E. Atlanta, GA 30324-4088 404876-8761 Out of Print per Jay’s website. Listed available on:

The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 4, December 1996
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