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Kids Picture Books for World Butterfly Day 2021

 

WORLD BUTTERFLY DAY

∼A Roundup∼

 

 

 

 

This year World Butterfly Day is on Sunday, March 14 so we’ve rounded up three picture books
that will help kids learn about these natural beauties, why they matter, and how we can help them since the Monarchs especially risk going extinct.

 

Butterflies Belong Here coverBUTTERFLIES BELONG HERE: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies
Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Meilo So
(Chronicle Books; $18.99, Ages 5-8)

Blending story and facts, Deborah Hopkinson’s engaging 68-page picture book, Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies, takes us through a school year via girl new to the US. Just as monarch butterflies travel far, so did her family. The girl learns to read through books like her favorite one with a butterfly on the cover.

The text alternates between the girl’s journey from one spring to the next with her school class and that of the monarch butterfly. As seasons pass, she hopes to see a monarch but realizes that she may not. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed but butterflies have a hard time finding it. “Some people think of milkweed as a useless weed, so they’ve used chemicals to keep it from growing in fields and on farmland. In other places, climate change has been causing droughts that make it difficult for milkweed to grow.”

I can empathize with the girl as she realizes that the “problem is so big, and butterflies are so small.” Though uncomfortable standing in front of her class, the girl gains their support in planting a monarch way station which “needs at least ten plants, with two different kinds of milkweed, and nectar flowers.”

Throughout, Meilo So’s uplifting art enlivens the girl’s growth as she enacts the librarian’s words, “It’s surprising what such a tiny creature can do,” demonstrating the power when we come together as conservationists and activists. Monarch butterflies traverse up to 3,000 miles, from Canada through the US to Mexico. They do not recognize borders, seeking only safe passage to survive from one generation to the next.

Beyond being a heartfelt read, Butterflies Belong Here is a call to action, providing notes in the back matter on how to help by involving your community. This book belongs in your classroom or home, just as these beautiful pollinators belong in our lives.

 

Winged Wonders coverWINGED WONDERS: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery
Written by Meeg Pincus
Illustrated by Yas Imamura
(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 7-10)

Meeg Pincus’s nonfiction picture book, Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, investigates where these beautiful butterflies travel, sweeping from Canada through North America, then seemingly disappearing. In 1976, through the work of people from all walks of life, the fact that millions of monarchs overwintered in Southern Mexico’s oyamel groves were finally officially documented because of tags placed on the butterflies.

Kids will enjoy how everyone pitched in: Fred the Canadian scientist, Norah a master organizer of collected data, plus thousands of “science teachers, backyard gardeners, and other curious souls.” The search unravels in a series of questions that figure out this fascinating migration. I appreciate that the back matter points out “history depends on who tells the story—Mexican poet and environmentalist Homero Aridjis asks: ‘Did the white scientists really “discover” the wintering sites that people in Southern Mexico knew about for centuries?’”

One of the book’s final questions, “So, who can make a difference for monarchs today?” is answered in Yas Imamura’s evocative art. The concluding “How to Help the Monarchs” section provides the shocking statistic that “habitats for monarchs are declining at a rate of 6,000 acres a day in the United States.” Steps we can do to help include planting pesticide-free milkweed (the only food the caterpillars can eat) and nectar plants for the butterflies, learning and educating others about the need for conservation, and treading more lightly on our planet—“use less plastic, electricity, water, chemicals; eat more plant-based, local foods.”

 

Hello Little One coverHELLO, LITTLE ONE: A Monarch Butterfly Story
Written by Zeena M. Pliska
Illustrated by Fiona Halliday
(Page Street Kids; $17.99, Ages 4-8)    

Zeena Pliska’s picture book, Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story, shows the monarch butterfly life cycle through the eyes of a newborn caterpillar surrounded by the color green until Orange (a monarch butterfly) soars into view. A friendship grows with the caterpillar wanting to see and know everything while Orange provides gentle guidance. The expressive art by Fiona Halliday zooms in close, providing detail and personality.

Kids will enjoy this relationship story—barely realizing it’s also educational! While much of the book is uplifting, the truth of a monarch’s short existence is handled delicately, with Orange honestly saying they will not be back. The loss is acknowledged and mourned but the main character goes on, boosted by the remembrance of their time together.

I like the circular nature of the story and how personification makes the text accessible to even the youngest kids. Back matter includes detail about the stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult (butterfly). Check under the book jacket for a second cover image.

 

Click here to read a review of another wonderful butterfly book.
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A Boy Called Dickens

From Rags to Riches: The Hard Knocks Life of Young Charles Dickens

In A Boy Called Dickens  by Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by John Hendrix ($17.99, Schwartz & Wade, ages 4-8) school-aged children will be transported back to the foggy, crime-riddled streets of Victorian London to get a taste of what life was like for this very famous author who moved there at age 10. I can just picture a school librarian reading out this story to students who sit in amazement as she turns the pages slowly for impact, maybe even dimming the lights and feigning a cockney accent. Do kids today realize how over one hundred years ago and even more recently than that, many families sent their young children out to work? And that even those who did take on employment could barely scrape together a decent living, let alone a healthy and safe one?

Readers will learn from A Boy Called Dickens that from an early age Dickens loved books but they often had to be sold to make ends meet.  At age 12, to help out his struggling family, he worked at a blacking factory where they made shoe polish. There author Hopkinson imagines him spinning tales to his friend Bob Fagin and perhaps sowing the seeds for his later literary life.  Sadly, Dickens’ family was sent to Marshalsea Prison (aka debtors prison) in London because of his father’s inability to pay back money owed to a bakery.  I never knew that after Mr. Dickens was able to settle his debt and was freed from prison, he came into an inheritance. Inheritances feature prominently in so many of Dickens’ classic novels that it’s no surprise he had a wealth of material to write about as he approached manhood. So rather than keep young Charles working at Warren’s and causing him shame, the now more prosperous Mr. Dickens decides to send his bright son to school in Camden Town for a proper, more middle class education. Ironically it took Dickens years to be able to write about his own childhood poverty, yet he could poignantly portray so many others’ including ill-fated  Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop.

This book is a fantastic introduction to Charles Dickens and events that served as lifelong inspiration for him.  In the end page Hopkinson explains more about Dickens’ life and what led her to write the story. Hendrix’s illustrations further complement the story, capturing the scruffy feel of the period and the general darkness and harshness that dominated every day life for the poor in 19th century London.

 

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