Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Of Butterflies And Borders

Early this spring along the road taken by my canine companion and me on our daily walks were the shells of milkweed pods among the dried grasses and leaves.  For the most part, the seeds were still snuggled inside. For a gal with the goal of having a field of milkweed for the monarch butterflies, this discovery was pure gold.

The numbers of these marvelous, brightly colored creatures, in recent years, is decreasing due to climate change and loss of habitat.  We, as humans, are at the root of their problems, but if we do everything possible, we can reverse their possible extinction.   Planting milkweed seeds is one of several solutions.

Anyone of any age can become a champion for these butterflies. Senorita Mariposa (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, August 6, 2019) written by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) with illustrations by Marcos Almada Rivero, through lively text in both English and Spanish and Spanish and English and vibrant images, follows the miraculous annual migration of monarchs from Canada and the United States to Mexico.  You'll be singing and dancing and clapping and toe-tapping from beginning to end. 

Little butterfly
Pequena mariposa

You just caught my eye
Llamaste mi atencion

A girl playing in a lake notices a monarch butterfly flying above her.  Three other children, singing as one plays a guitar, see the monarch butterfly among the bees.  A chorus rings out in tribute to the beauty and power of Senorita Mariposa.  This monarch butterfly is loved.

Soon she joins other monarch butterflies leaving the north to travel south.  She will be missed as she flies at least sixty miles per day.  Wherever she goes, her presence is noted.  Wherever she goes, all are amazed at her yearly accomplishment.

This butterfly and her companions traverse over mountains and deserts until they happily reach their destination.  Once there, their arrival is welcomed.  Children greet them with praise and joy following their flight to their resting place.

Millions and millions of monarch butterflies gather to create fluttering orange boughs on a special specie of evergreen.  They will reside there during the winter months as if in celebration.  The chorus rings out again in honor and great affection.

As you read the words penned by Ben Gundersheimer you find yourself captured by the rhythm of the rhyming words in English.  When you sing the English followed by the Spanish or sing the Spanish followed by the English, the musicality of the words in both languages wraps around you.  The chorus, sung first in Spanish, rhymes for the first four lines and ends with

Te quiero a ti
I love you

Careful readers will discover facts woven into the narrative.  Here is a two-line passage.

Sixty miles or more a day
Por mas de sesenta millas al dia

We will see you on your way
Te veremos en tu camino

Against a blue sky with swirling clouds readers are introduced to Senorita Mariposa.  She is joined by other monarchs, one positioned on a letter in the title.  The primary authentic hues with orange, black, and white are a cheerful request to meet this butterfly.  The tip of her right wing continues on the other side of the spine, to the left, on the back.

There the shades of the blue sky shift a bit to include greens.  We are now in a forest setting.  A bear gazes up at monarch butterflies and bees flying over milkweed.  Senorita Mariposa is nearly nose to nose with the bear.  A grasshopper watches from a branch above them all.

On the book case leaves in varying hues of green supply a background.  On the front Senorita Mariposa has opened her wings completely, gazing at readers with a slight turn of her head.  On the back two happy monarch caterpillars crawl among the leaves.

A pale lavender covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Digitally rendered the images created by Marcos Almada Rivero are a beautiful blend of bold color and soft washes.  Readers will find themselves pausing at each page turn to enjoy all the items in each scene, animals, domestic and wild and lush flora in panoramic views or close-ups with Senorita Mariposa.

The representation of children from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds engaged together in different activities is wonderful to see.  They are blissfully happy, as they should be.  Even the expressions on the animals are thoughtful and content. Readers will also be able to speculate where and when Senorita Mariposa is in her flight by items in the pictures. 

One of my many favorite illustrations spanning two pages, as they all do, is when the monarch butterflies and Senorita Mariposa arrive in Mexico.  Two children, an older brother and his younger sister, run along with the butterflies as they travel to reach the evergreens.  The little girl is carrying a white kite with a monarch butterfly on it.  Their dog, tongue hanging from its mouth in happiness, is running with them.  The children and the butterflies are moving from left to right and upward.  On the right side branches of the fir trees frame the text as butterflies move among them.  We are watching this joyous occasion as if we are one of the monarch butterflies.

For an exuberant read aloud destined to have listeners participating through song or dance or both or as an introduction to a theme revolving around monarch butterflies, butterflies or insects, Senorita Mariposa written by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) with illustrations by Marcos Almada Rivero is an excellent choice.  At the conclusion of this delightful title in an author's note readers are given more information about monarch butterflies and asked to help protect them.  Readers are directed to a website.  You'll want a copy of this title for your personal and professional collections.  It's sure to be a favorite.

To learn more about Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) and Marcos Almada Rivero and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Here is a link to the Mariposa Project page at Mister G's website.  Ben Gundersheimer maintains accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Marcos Almada Rivero has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  For additional research on monarch butterflies, readers might want to consult this page with multiple links provided by Michigan's Department of National Resources.

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