Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A Butterfly is Patient

All week the sun has been shining in spectacular and very un-March like fashion. Today is set to be the warmest March day for a decade. The boys' school is shut because of the NUT strike and we're set for a picnic and ice creams in the park. In March. Have I mentioned that it's March? March!

I spent yesterday spring cleaning the garden ready to grow food for the slugs (maybe I should just write them a large cheque on cabbage leaves and cut out the Garden Centre middleman?). I saw three butterflies as I was digging; obviously primed to do a little dance in honour of today's non fiction pick 'A Butterfly is Patient' by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long; presciently selected from the library last week when the weather was still grey and gloomy.

This is a wonderful book from the US, evidently the third collaboration between this pairing who are also responsible for 'An Egg is Quiet' and 'A Seed is Sleepy', both titles I am keen to seek out now.

There are plenty of books that tell the story of the magical metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly but few that do so as spectacularly as this one. The end papers are the first treat; a kaleidoscope of wonderfully exotic caterpillars at the front and their butterfly counterparts at the back. Bill spent a long time matching up the two and picking favourites, enjoying both the diversity of their colours and shapes and the mouthfeel of saying their names ; 'Great Purple Hairstreak', 'Blue Morpho','Ruddy Daggerwing', 'Painted Jezebel', 'Moonlight Jewel'. We loved the disparity between caterpillar and butterfly and the apparent randomness of their pairings; the most spectacular scary red horned caterpillar becoming a small muted blue and green butterfly and vice versa. They are all painted with proper Zoological attention to detail and with a vibrancy to charm even the most reluctant lepidopterist.

The text within has a useful balance of butterfly fact and anecdote to inform without overwhelming; and provide readers with some good snippets of improving dinner table conversation:

'Although Monarchs weigh only as much as a few rose petals, they can fly almost 3000 miles from Canada to their winter home in Mexico.'

'A caterpillar...can grow up to 30,000 times larger than it was when it took its first bite.'

But it is the illustrations that make the book worth seeking out and savouring. The only sadness is that, as this is an American book, the butterflies represented are not to be found in our own back garden. Hmm, today would make a great day for a caterpillar hunt, maybe we can do some home grown appreciation and comparison. We'll post any discoveries on Twitter and see if we can make our own butterfly garden in due course.

'A Butterfly is Patient' written by Dianna Hutts Aston, illus. Sylvia Long,
pub. Chronicle isbn 978-0-8118-6479-4


  1. Oh my gosh! I love this series! The egg book is actually my favorite of the three!! Simply amazing!

    1. I'm seeing if I can order it from the library :)

  2. Well, very excitingly our local library has all three on order (ordering is free). I shall update you.

  3. I love these books as well and just finished reading her newest book "A Rock is Lively". If you haven't looked at that one yet, it's as good as the others.