Butterflies Belong Here by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2020
“Last Spring, we took a class picture. That’s me in the back. I was a little like a caterpillar then: quiet and almost invisible. I didn’t like to stand out or be noticed.”
Like the migrating butterflies, the shy girl made “…a long, long journey…” from another country. When she first arrived in America, she didn’t speak English, so the school librarian picked out picture books for her. She became fascinated with one that was all about butterflies. When summer comes and she doesn’t see any monarchs, she worries and wonders.
“I wondered if monarch butterflies belonged here. Sometimes I wondered if we did, too.”
She learns that monarchs need milkweed to live, and its habitat is threatened, but she also learns that people are planting monarch way stations. When she spots a sunny, vacant spot outside the library window, she tells the librarian that would be a good place for a way station. The librarian suggests “It takes just one person to get things started.” But the little girl doesn’t think she’s that kind of person.
With the librarian’s encouragement, the shy girl decides to do her research project on monarchs. During her presentation, the class gets enthused to build a way station. She shows them her plans on how to do that, along with supplies needed and the cost.
Plans begin and she says, “I could feel myself growing and changing little by little.” Just like the caterpillars.
Although this is a fictional story, the storytelling is inter-mixed with so much information about butterflies that I would shelve it in the non-fiction section of a classroom library. The back matter includes: a guide to making a way station; miscellaneous monarch facts; books for young environmental activists; books for grown-ups and internet resources.
This book was brought to my attention in April of 2021 when it won the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA) from Northland College. On Sigurd Olson’s birthday, April 4, Northland College announces its choices for the best in nature writing for the previous year. SONWA categories include adult nonfiction and children’s literature.
See: https://www.northland.edu/sustain/soei/sonwa/ for this year’s winner and a list of all past award winners.)
Butterflies Belong Here is an excellent resource for the elementary classroom.