Lynn: For many years our family has enjoyed a wonderful rite of spring that fortunately doesn’t depend on the outside temperature in Michigan. We are lucky to live close to the outstanding Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. I could go on and on about the wonders of the Gardens but today I will stick to the annual Butterfly Exhibit. Like many museums and botanical gardens, Meijer Gardens hatches tropical butterflies in their Rain Forest building and the butterflies fly free throughout the exhibit. It is a complete delight and we go every year to watch these gorgeous creatures fly among the deep green plants. We often wondered where the pupae come from and I’m sure it is a question asked over and over by visitors to these exhibits everywhere.
Loree Griffin Burns has come to the rescue with her terrific new book Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Millbrook 2014)! Burns takes readers to a very special farm, a butterfly farm in Costa Rica. At El Bosque Nuevo farmers raise butterfly pupae that they sell to museums and gardens around the world. As Burns explains this unique business, she also clearly describes the fascinating process of metamorphosis for young readers. Burns chose the stunning Blue Morpho butterfly as the focus of the story – a butterfly that is one of the most eye-catching of the species raised at the farm. Ellen Harasimowicz’s wonderful photographs do a great job of illustrating and expanding the text. Close ups of the caterpillars and pupae are a delight but I especially enjoyed the pictures of some of the processes particular to the farm such as trays of pupae being readied for packing and the inside of a puparium.
Children familiar with butterfly exhibits will be fascinated by this peek inside the supply side of the exhibits and those interested in the life cycle of butterflies will find this a refreshingly different approach. With large pictures and text, this book can be easily used to read to an entire class as well as being wonderful for independent reading.
There is also some good back matter including more about insect metamorphosis, a discussion of insect words a glossary and bibliography. Lerner also provides free downloadable resources for this book.
Common Core Connection
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
Have students select a term for one of the stages of metamorphosis in the glossary, then see if they can find it in the index. Then find the page. Have students draw a picture that illustrates that stage of a butterfly life cycle.