Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So

 

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, 
Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies
illustrated by Meilo So
Review Copy from Chronicle Books

With Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies, Hopkinson blends fiction and non-fiction marvelously, sharing a story of migration, conservation, community and advocacy through the eyes of a newcomer.

Starting in Spring, the unnamed narrator tells readers that, when she first came to America, she couldn't read English. The librarian helped her choose books with lots of pictures and her favorite had a butterfly on the cover. That's how she learned about monarch butterflies making the "long, long journey, just like we did." When school starts in the fall, she heads straight to the library where the librarian has stocked up on books about monarchs and shares her personal experience creating a monarch way station in her own yard. The narrator also learns that the milkweed plant, the source of shelter and food for monarchs, has dwindled to the point that, in 20 years, the monarch population has declined by 90 percent. With encouragement and assurance from her librarian, and books, the narrator makes a presentation to her class that inspires all of them to work to create a monarch way station right on their school grounds. Hopkinson shows the students making a plan, seeking permission, inviting experts to campus to learn more about monarchs, and going out into the community to educate others and find volunteers to help with the project. The class even visits a neighboring school where students who created a way station two years earlier are now citizen scientists, raising caterpillars and tagging the monarchs so that their migration routes can be traced. Through her interest in and commitment to helping monarchs, the reader changes and grows, surprising herself.

Hopkins includes five two-page spreads of facts about monarchs, from their life cycle to their migration, over the course of the book. with the author's note and back matter enhancing and expanding on this information. Hopkinson shares that she was inspired to write about monarchs, and tell the story of a newcomer, by her visits to schools all over and the work that students are doing to help butterflies. She gives a quick guide to making a schoolyard monarch way station, shares additional fact, and recommends books for young environmental activists and a superb list for grown-up activists and educators, ending with a full page of internet resources.
Studying monarch butterflies was part of the curriculum for students at the school where I was the librarian and I learned along with them. To be exact, they often taught me. I spent five years ordering every book on monarchs I could find for my shelves (there aren't many) and documenting for the school's social media the building of first a school garden, then a designated monarch way station by students on our campus. Being an EL Education school, students engage in project based learning (called expeditions) at all grade levels, with each expedition including a community service component. Over the years, students created book marks to share with campus neighbors and even grew milkweed plants that they gave away. One of the best experiences I had during the lockdown in California (spent with my mother, two adult children, husband and teenage son) in March and April of this year was discovering my first caterpillar on my five-year-old milkweed plant, given to me by the second grade teacher who grew it from a seed. Every morning my daughter and mother would rush outside to track the progress of the caterpillars, then chrysalises, then monarchs. And then, in June and July, after the milkweed had been eaten down to a mere skeleton, it started to grow back and we had a few more monarchs to watch for. If you live in the right place, I highly recommend adding milkweeds to your garden. And, if you live in the right place and have or work with kids, definitely consider getting a school wide project going to create a monarch way station on campus! Start your journey with here with help from monarchwatch.org.

Don't miss another great book about kids, community & environmental activism 
by Hopkinson & Phillipe Cousteau, also illustrated by Meilo So:



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