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Saturday, February 16, 2013

How To Raise Monarch Butterflies, written by Carol Pasternak. Firefly Books, 2012. $8.95 ages 8 and up

"You'll have to look carefully, though! A monarch egg is smaller than a sesame seed. It's creamy white and the shape of a football. Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed, usually on the underside of the leaf. If you see a monarch laying an egg..."

I was surprised this past summer to see many more monarch butterflies than I am accustomed to seeing. I wonder why, and I don't have the answer. They are so beautiful and bring a calm to the backyard that encourages quiet reflection!

So, when I received this book from Firefly, I was intrigued to know more about these beautiful creatures. In the introduction I learned that some people consider them a symbol of good luck, of transformation and hope. Many are in awe of their migration:

"The idea that this tiny wonder, weighing less than a dime, can take off and fly more than 2,000 miles (3,200 kms) to a place it's never been is simply fascinating. No wonder we are still searching for clues as to what guides this remarkable journey."

This is just the beginning of a book that deals with the wonder of raising these lovely, delicate butterflies, which are found in 'North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and other South Pacific Islands'. Kids who love wildlife will find much to learn in this informative and beautifully photographed book.

In a step-by-step guide Carol Pasternak shows us how to care for a monarch butterfly, from egg to adult. In doing so, we see the miracle that is the metamorphosis. The anatomy of a caterpillar and butterfly is shown in a two-page spread that is carefully captioned to help young readers recognize the four stages of the transformation. Then, the excitement ramps up!

A list of materials is provided, with accompanying clear photos to help the project get started. The tough work is at hand when the search begins for caterpillars. Remember that first there must be milkweed. As the search proceeds, children are sure to get up close and personal with other creatures of nature. Monarch caterpillars are easy to recognize due to their very distinctive coloring. In careful chronological steps the author helps budding scientists learn to take care of any caterpillars found. She even helps impatient 'lookers' by showing them how to find the eggs, if they can't wait for the caterpillar stage.

Once the life cycle is at its end, she helps with the how-to on releasing the adults into the world, and explains the dangers they will face as they begin their migration. It's pretty daunting! Once they are gone, she moves on to helping design a garden meant to attract butterflies, and to informing readers of ways we might make the world a better, and safer, place going forward. Websites, discussion questions, a glossary and an index add to the appeal and usefulness of this awesome nonfiction book.

The photographs add depth and understanding. They are visually appealing and perfectly match the text as it is presented. Now, you have everything you need to help make this a class project in the spring, or a family project when the children are home on vacation this summer. Exciting and informative!

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