Antoine O Flatharta,
illustrations by Meilo So
From School Library Journal
Hurry, a tortoise, exchanges quips with a monarch butterfly as she stops in Wichita Falls, TX, while migrating from Canada to Mexico. The encounter, told in the present tense, frames a simple, fairly straightforward account of the monarch’s long journey and life cycle. The stay in Mexico gets brief coverage. The butterfly returns in the spring, lands on Hurry’s shell, lays her eggs on nearby milkweed, and flies off for her final rest. The tortoise then watches the transformation of one of the new caterpillars as it grows, forms a chrysalis, and emerges as a new monarch. The writing includes some jocular dialogue but is sometimes awkward in construction. So’s shimmering watercolors are quite lovely, melding a bit of humor, broad impressionistic strokes, and fairly realistic sketches of some monarchs and caterpillars. A general map serving as front and back end pages broadly indicates this monarch’s journey. Texas and Wichita Falls are the only marked places, though the text also refers to Eagle Pass, the Rio Grande, and the towns of Sweetwater and Stillwater. A final two-page essay for adults adds more details on monarchs.
Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
*Starred Review* PreS-Gr. 2. In a tale that recalls Leo Leonni’s classic interspecies fable Fish Is Fish (1970), a migrating butterfly provides Hurry, a Texas tortoise, with perspective on the world beyond his garden. “Maybe one day, you’ll break out of that shell, grow wings, and fly away,” the butterfly remarks to Hurry. “I doubt it,” he replies, then contentedly settles down to hibernate. He wakes in the spring to see the same butterfly alight on a milkweed plant and deposit an egg, which hatches into a caterpillar that metamorphoses under Hurry’s watchful eye. Flatharta avoids heavy anthropomorphizing and romanticized views of nature: the migrating monarchs are as likely to stop to rest on a coil of barbed wire as on a picturesque flower, and the reality of insect life spans is gently but unequivocally addressed when the mother monarch’s quick stop to rest “becomes forever.” Veined with a tracery of inked details, So’s subtle watercolors reference both Asian nature-painting traditions and the limited palette of artwork in the early days of color printing. Together with its informative afterword, this is a particularly attractive, affecting introduction to the wonder of species diversity and the elegant continuum of life.
I picked this book up at the local library as I am keenly interested in the monarch migration story– who wouldn’t be? But this story adds a depth to the tale of animal migration. It’s about love, loss and letting go. Absolutely beautiful illustrations along with a simple, yet powerful story which leaves the reader with a sense of inner peace about the natural world. And over all, it lends this feeling of how fortunate we are to be alive and living on this planet we call Earth! I will be purchasing many copies of this book to offer as gifts to my friends and family members of all ages.