“Señorita Mariposa” by Ben Gundersheimer and illustrated by Marcos Almada Rivero is a beautiful, happy, rhyming picture book that tells the story of the monarch butterfly’s long journey from faraway places to Mexico where the monarchs gather each winter. Children get an idea of how long the journey is through the text and illustrations. “Over mountains capped with snow, to the deserts down below,” and elsewhere, the monarchs travel long distances on their journey.
On almost every page, happy animals and happy people joyfully welcome the monarch on its journey as it travels across the country. Kids will have fun guessing which city one monarch is flying over and seeing what month another illustration is set in. The happy text is shown in alternating English and Spanish. On some pages, the English text is larger with the Spanish text in smaller print below it, and on other pages the Spanish text is larger with smaller English text below. Respect is given to both languages, and the book can be read in either language — or in both languages.
An especially lovely aspect of this book/rhyme about monarchs is all the nonfiction material included. Toward the end, the illustrations show the monarch caterpillar eating the milkweed, and eclosing (that is coming out of the chrysalis), and flying away. What the book doesn’t mention is that hundreds, maybe thousands of people are now helping monarchs along by bringing in the eggs and the caterpillars, raising them in relative safety in mesh cages, and letting them go when they leave the chrysalis. It’s a bit controversial in terms of whether this might help the monarch population, but I’ve brought in several caterpillars and eggs and have another milkweed plant in a mesh cage to protect the caterpillars from the many predators that exist in the wild. Some estimate that only 3 – 5 butterflies actually result from every 100 eggs laid because of the predators. Nature can be cruel.
See below pictures of the monarch butterfly from an egg just before hatching, through the 5 instars (stages of caterpillar; they molt four times before pupating), and a chrysalis that is a few days from eclosing.
The Author’s Note explains about the migration to Mexico and that no single individual makes the whole journey. He explains that the butterflies that travel south live longer (they are sometimes called the “Methuselah generation”) because instead of the two to six weeks that all other monarchs live, this fourth generation of butterflies lives six to eight months. He also explains that it’s important to plant milkweed to protect the monarchs because much of their habitat has been lost through pesticides and climate change.
So the very important moral of this picture book is that the monarch butterflies need help. There are several ways to help, but most effective and important, perhaps, would be to plant milkweed in your backyard. Also, plant flowers that provide nectar for the butterflies. There are many varieties, like coneflower, anise, butterfly bush, Joe Pye weed (not really a weed), and even garlic chives. Make sure you don’t spray your yard with pesticides that would harm the butterflies. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Teachers, this is an amazing book that will entrance students and teach them about the monarchs at the same time. They will love hearing the song (listen below courtesy of YouTube). Reading to them about the monarchs and their journey and, yes, about the predators and the dangers that the butterflies face will teach students about life cycles. It’s important for students to know that people, many people, are working hard to try to help the monarch butterfly population stay vibrant in spite of the dangers. This book will help spread that message.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover picture book provided by the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, for review purposes.
Song: Señorita Mariposa, courtesy of YouTube
Butterfly eclosing (coming out of the chrysalide)