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.