Picture Book: Monarch Butterfly of Aster Way

Picture Book: Monarch Butterfly of Aster Way

This one came as a birthday present for Bella, courtesy of my parents, who chose it from our Amazon wish list. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

I’m sure this grabbed my eye because I’d just finished reading The Dangerous World of Butterflies. It’s one in the Smithsonian’s Backyard series of books published by the Smithsonian Institution. I’d never heard of this series before we got this book; but I suspect we’re going to be getting better acquainted.

The story follows a monarch butterfly from the time she emerges from her chrysalis in a backyard on Aster Way (in an undisclosed every town USA). She migrates south and west, with a stop at the butterfly garden in Washington DC until she reaches Mexico. There she winters with other monarchs in the oyamel trees. In the spring she mates and flies north, laying eggs, until she dies. The book notes the caterpillars who emerge from the eggs to eat milkweed, make a chrysalis and migrate farther north until several generations later a great-great-great granddaughter will migrate back to Mexico.

I liked that this book is accurate in all the scientific details and uses the correct words while at the same time spinning them into an entertaining and easy to read story. It makes the butterfly an interesting character without anthropomorphizing it. And did I mention it’s a joy to read the smooth prose? Unlike so many children’s books that are clunky and awkward with sentences that don’t flow right with words that are poorly chosen so that I dread the physical act of reading, this one just feels good in my mouth.

The illustrations are beautiful and full of rich, naturalistic details. The kinds of pictures you can spend hours looking at, which is great because that’s exactly what Bella does.

This week we also acquired a second book in the series, Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane that follows a little chipmunk as she gathers seeds and nuts and stores them in her nest for the winter. Also beautiful with all the same features that made me like the monarch book. These are a good introduction to nature study, helping children to be interested in the wildlife in their own backyards.

It did take Bella a little while to warm up to these books; but after a couple of readings she was hooked and has requested them several times. At first she was a little disinterested probably in part because they came among so many new books and because there is a less drama than in Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Still, I think I’d have been turned off if they’d tried to ramp up the drama.

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  • In the hospital after Cecilia was born, everyone kept telling me to be sure to nurse the baby every 3 hours. So, being a book learner and not as intuitive, when Cecilia would cry only an hour after eating, I figured she couldn’t possibly be hungry. I remember her crying and sobbing after we got home and I couldn’t get her asleep and I couldn’t figure out why. Looking back I feel like I was an idiot, but no one told me a baby could be hungry every hour. Cue too much weight loss for Cecilia and engorgement for me. I got so engorged Cecilia couldn’t even latch on. I had to find a way to express enough milk so she could even latch on. Eventually we got the hang of it and she gained all her weight back, but the whole experience really made me doubt if I could be any good at motherhood.
    Felicity was my easy nurser. She had no trouble at all and self-weaned at a year.
    Elizabeth has been a good nurser up until about 2 months ago. In March she began teething 4 teeth (her top front ones) at once. She began biting me while nursing. I have scolded her, said “no”, taken her off etc. She still bites sometimes. She sometimes still nurses once during the night and, since we co-sleep, I can easily fall asleep while she nurses. This lead to cuts on me, one of which was so painful it woke me up and was bleeding. So I weaned her back to 3 nursings a day. She has gotten better about the biting, but it still happens. I never had Cecilia or Felicity have a problem with biting. They’d try it once, I’d make it clear not to do that, end of story. So the biting has been a new problem for me. My goal is always to nurse until their first birthday. So far so good. I just need to make it through June despite the biting and I’ll be content.

    It is funny how you can have so much experience with something and still have something happen that hasn’t happened before.

  • There wasn’t any question that I would do anything but nurse my babies—I was ready before I was pregnant, with an army of nursing friends, midwives, lactation consultants, League leaders, books, pumps, pillows.  I was almost a little disappointed that I didn’t have more trouble wink  No, actually, I had what sounds like a fairly normal learning curve with my first baby, who was fat and wanted to sleep a lot, and I remember calling one friend in tears at one point begging her to come over and help me, which she did; but as far as I can tell that is not a terribly unusual experience.  (I’ve never had a hospital birth—all have been at home)

    But here is the funny part.  I nursed my first till around age 4, my second till age 3, no problems after those first few weeks with the first baby, very easy.  And then my third baby was born after I’d been nursing expertly for nearly 6 years.  And—whoom!  I was back to the mountain of pillows, the lactation consultants, the frustrations.  This is the message I would like to tell new mothers:  How difficult it is depends in part on someone you can’t control:  the baby!  Every mother-baby pair has a learning curve together.  Sure, it’s going to be easier (probably) if mom is experienced, but even an experienced mother has a learning curve with each baby and the baby has to learn to work with the mother too.

    In a way, sometimes I think the nursing learning curve is the first experience of discipline between parent and child.  So much patience, so much self-discipline is necessary on the part of the mother.  So much gentle teaching, repetition, and joy when baby and mother finally “get it” and that connection forms.  If only we could remember that feeling later, the connection that we are seeking, when we are trying to teach the more difficult lessons.

  • I struggled the first few days with DD1, and made it through with a tip from my dad’s farming experience (apparently massaging the teats of cows can make milking easier, so I tried massaging to soften the nipple area and that helped), and a kind nurse who sat with me for every feed through one night. After that it was all fairly plain sailing, though it wasn’t until DD2 that I really “got” feeding on demand and realised that yes, some babies do want dessert 20 minutes after they last fed!

    I think the problems so many nursing mothers have are compounded by a lack of experienced older women and friends around them to give advice and demonstrate if necessary. When in hospital after Cherub was born I was able to help the mother in the next bed … she had persevered for two or three months with her first baby, despite never really getting the latch right, and was having difficulty again the second time around. As an experienced nursing mother I could see immediately what the issue was and by watching Cherub she could see what she needed to change. Being in an expert/client situation with a stranger can be stressful in itself, which of course doesn’t help with trying to get nursing right.

  • bearing, so true! the baby is her own person and even a mother who knows what she is doing may have to gently guide the baby.  I hadn’t thought of it in terms of discipline; but that makes sense too.  A good thought to keep in mind.


    I so agree. Having an experienced nursing mother nearby who could show me and not just tell me, could have made a great deal of difference. It is so hard for me to feel comfortable with professionals.

    I know that there is La Leche League, which is designed to create those relationships; but for an introvert with mild social phobias recovering from a c-section…. Well, getting over the fear for the phone and fear of strangers barriers made that less accessible to me than even a lactation consultant. While going to the lactation consultant might not have been as helpful or as comfortable as another friendly mom, scheduling an appointment with her was easier than finding and attending a meeting with a roomful of strangers.