A new children’s book from Metchosin author David McArthur has become an Amazon bestseller just one week after its release, due in large part to the girls who inspired it.
McArthur’s fourth book, What Does a Caterpillar Do?, is dedicated to Victoria sisters Chloe and Aubrey Berry, who were killed by their father on Christmas Day nearly three years ago. Profits from the book are going to the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention and Counselling Centre.
The author said purchasing What Does a Caterpillar Do? has given Victoria readers an opportunity to honour the daughters of Sarah Cotton, his close friend. The girls’ father, Andrew Berry, is serving a life sentence for their murders.
McArthur said the positive response to his book “really sums up Victoria. “We have such a fantastic community here. Everyone wants to show Sarah how much they care, and to do something for her. This book has given people an avenue for that.”
The book about a caterpillar’s metamorphosis has the blessing of Cotton, who writes in an afterword about her “two little butterflies” portrayed in the book. McArthur said he was motivated to develop the story after hearing Cotton talk about the girls and their desire to help others.
“Shortly before the girls died, they were asked what their superpower would be, and they said it would be helping people, and especially helping small children,” McArthur said. “Sarah said to me she really believes that is what’s happening, that this is the girls working through the book to help raise money for the charity that helped them so much.”
McArthur said he met Cotton shortly after moving to Victoria from the United Kingdom in 2012. McArthur’s wife, Helen, worked with Cotton, and the couple’s nine-year-old son, Max, and six-year-old daughter, Freya, were close in age to Aubrey and Chloe and played often with them.
He came up with the idea for the book after attending a memorial for the girls at Willows Park in Oak Bay where two lanterns were lit and sent skyward in their honour.
That image of two lanterns and the moon stuck with McArthur as he wrote the book years later. The final page of the story features two butterflies in front of the moon. “Even if Sarah had said: ‘It’s beautiful, I love it, but please don’t get it published,’ I still would have had it created and given to her privately. It was never going to be anything public without Sarah’s influence.”
What Does a Caterpillar Do?, with illustrations by Lucy Rogers, was independently published, but sold enough copies during its first week — between 300 and 400, McArthur said — to compete with books from well-known imprints. The book made it to the top spot of Amazon’s children’s book category, and nearly cracked Amazon’s Top 100, the top fiction and non-fiction sellers of the week.
One local company, whose name McArthur did not want to mention, bought 50 copies of the book to give to parents with newborn children. “The feedback we are getting is just astonishing. When you put a book out, you never really know what to expect and how people are going to perceive it. But it has snowballed.”
McArthur’s other books are What Does a Bee Do?, What Does a Fairy Godmother Do?, and What Does a Doctor Do?
• David McArthur is running a contest and will award one of three signed copies of the book to children who draw a picture of what a caterpillar might do. Entries can be emailed to email@example.com