"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." ~Hans Christian Anderson
These words and the following books remind me of the time my husband and I brought my teenage daughter to the butterfly zone at the zoo. She was a little over a year old, and was wearing a shirt with a floral design on it. A butterfly ended up landing on her shoulder!
Oh, the wonder of butterflies, and the hope that they carry with them.
Since Earth Day is coming up next week, I'd like to share two picture books relating to butterflies. The first is perfect for the 3 to 6 age range, and the second is most appropriate for teens and adults.
Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly, by Alan Madison (author) and Kevin Hawkes (illustrator) is the story of a first grade girl who is trying all too hard to step out of the shadow of her two older sisters. Like many young siblings, Velma feels invisible. Well, until her class starts to learn all about the life cycles of butterflies, that is.
I love books that show us how much fun learning can be, especially when it's "hands-on." When we're lucky enough to discover that sweet spot of learning, it's so much easier to set ourselves apart from the crowd, because it no longer seems like work.
Wonder is wonderful, isn't? Somehow, I think we could all use a little more of it!
And so, I wonder...how caterpillars know how and when to build cocoons? Are there some who never figure out that they're supposed to do so?
If all caterpillars eventually fly, why is it so hard for people to figure out how to do so - in life? What can we learn about ourselves from these creatures?
As John Muir once said:
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
Nature can inspire people of all ages and walks of life, so if that's what you're looking for, have I got a book for you! It's one that every adult should read, but children will certainly get a kick out of it, too.
Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus, is
"a tale -
partly about life
partly about revolution
and lots about hope."
This picture book is divided into chapters, and some people probably wouldn't define it as a picture book at all. So, I'd love to hand this to anyone who thinks that such books are not for anyone other than young children.
Hope for the Flowers is one of those books that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. I couldn't even begin to describe it in too much detail because there are so many themes running through it.
To sum it up briefly, there's a yellow caterpillar and a striped caterpillar, who become friends along the great climb of life. Neither of them has any idea that a better life awaits them as butterflies. As a matter of fact, they have no idea what a chrysalis or a butterfly is at all.
And so they climb, until eventually one heads off in a completely different direction, away from all of the other caterpillars.
Will the two ever find each other again?
I'll just leave you wondering.
Since it's a book about hope, I'm sure you can put all the pieces together! Hopefully, those pieces will bring you some inner peace.
I'll leave you with another quote from John Muir:
“Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”
Happy spring! The next time you see a caterpillar, will you see it quite the same way? May you and your child(ren) connect the dots in your own way.
Here are a couple of nonfiction children's book connections for those with children who take curiosity to the next level:
- I Wonder Why Caterpillars Eat So Much: and Other Questions about Life Cycles, by Belinda Weber.
- I Wonder Why Trees Have Leaves: And Other Questions About Plants, by Andrew Charman, which can be perfectly paired with Thomas Locker's Sky Tree.
Oh, and did you know you can actually watch a caterpillar transform into a butterfly, right in your own home? We did so when my children were younger, but you have to make sure the weather is warm enough for it to survive when you release it outside. You can find such kits at web sites like nature-gifts.com or Carolina.com. It's a wonderful experience.
If that's a little too hands on for you, but you still want to learn more, you can head on over to Butterflyschool.org. Of course, another option is to head on over to the library to check out some related nonfiction picture books.
Please connect the dots however you wish, just as the butterflies fly from flower to flower...