Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fluttering Away

Elusive butterflies are associated with chasing happiness; they and it may gracefully and unexpectedly arrive when we quietly sit.  Butterflies are historically symbolic in numerous cultures.  For many they are viewed as souls in flight.  Their life stages represent distinctive changes in following the Christian faith.  For scores of other people butterflies are simply insects of exquisite beauty that move in and out of their field of vision.

Recently heard on television, a character stated butterflies in your stomach means you care deeply about something or someone.  Everyone has experienced this sensation.  Butterflies On The First Day of School (Sterling Children's Books, May 7, 2019) written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Dream Chen depicts with beautiful insight in words and pictures, the fluttery feeling we get in our stomachs when faced with something momentous.

A month before school, Rosie picked out her very first backpack.

It was decorated with flowers.  She adored it, wearing it around the house.  Rosie made sure she knew how to raise her hand when necessary.  She wrote her ABCs over and over.  She said her teacher's name.  She was excited for her first day of school until the night before that day.  Worry settled inside her.

In the morning, Rosie spoke to her mother and father about her reluctance to go.  Her mother told her

"You just have butterflies in your belly."

Before Rosie could ask for an explanation the school bus pulled into view.

On the bus ride to school, three butterflies flew out of Rosie's mouth when she spoke to a new friend.  No one but Rosie saw them.  On the circle rug in the kindergarten room when it was Rosie's turn to introduce herself, the butterflies moved around inside her until she bravely stood up and spoke.  More butterflies left Rosie's belly then and as she worked and played in her classroom.

During recess Rosie noticed a little girl standing alone.  Another friendship formed as a child looked in amazement at a new sight.  At the end of the day, running from the bus into her mother's loving embrace, an affectionate surprise fluttered upward.

When we meet Rosie through the chosen words of Annie Silvestro we are drawn to her charming personality as evidenced by her warmth toward her sister and parents.   We feel a bond with her at her reluctance to go to school.  Why else wouldn't she eat chocolate-chip pancakes?

It's that first connection on the school bus when Violet speaks to her and she responds that a butterfly flies out of her mouth.  This is a wonderful moment for Rosie and for readers as a correlation is made.  We are willing participants in this story as Annie Silvestro adds depth and humor with dialogue. Here are two passages.

The words tumbled out on two silver butterflies.
Rosie watched them flutter down the aisle.
Violet didn't seem to notice. (on the school bus)

Violet went next.
"I'm allergic to dogs," she said.  "And sometimes
to my brother, Alex."  (in the classroom)

A collection of complementary colors captures our attention of the front of the dust jacket (I'm using an F & G for this blog post.) We wonder along with the little girl at the splendor spread above her.  To the left, on the back, on a continuation of the dark cream background, Rosie is featured with the family dog and cat.  She is smiling as a butterfly soars over them.  A passage from the book is above this illustration.

On the opening endpapers what appears to be a collage created by artist Dream Chen spans the two pages.  It's a pattern of yellow and golden flowers, clusters of red berries (replicated on Rosie's first-day clothing) and tiny-leaved green stems.  At the back on the closing endpapers, butterflies in hues of blue, red and yellow fly from the bottom to the top.

Most of the illustrations are placed on a crisp white canvas with generous borders of white, illuminating the bright color palette.  Image sizes vary from full-page pictures to several visuals on a page to larger double-page illustrations in the classroom.  The children are fully animated and fully engaged in conversations and activities. 

One of my many favorite illustrations shows the interior of the school bus.  In the first of four seats in green, Rosie and Violet sit.  The students behind them are laughing and chatting with the exception of one student.  It's Isabella, who we meet later. (It's interesting how she is shown in illustrations until Rosie notices her on the playground at recess.)  Sunlight streams in through the windows making rectangles on the floor of the bus.  Two butterflies float away from Rosie.

Butterflies On The First Day of School written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Dream Chen is an absolutely precious title for sharing with students attending school on that first day whether they are in kindergarten or older.  I adore the clever use of butterflies in the stomach and how they fly away as calm settles over Rosie and her new nervous friend.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.  For reading aloud with a group you might want to consider using a flying butterfly surprise which you can wind-up and place inside the book. 

To learn more about Annie Silvestro and Dream Chen and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Annie Silvestro has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Dream Chen has an account on Instagram as well as a blog on Tumblr.

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