butterfly tree

Butterfly Tree by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Leslie Wu

A girl is playing at the beach in early September when she sees something odd in the air.  At first it looks like black pepper raining down, then it turns into a shimmering orange cloud.  Jilly runs to get her mother because she is scared of what it might be.  Her mother heads toward the beach and then to the neighboring woods.  As they walk, Jilly tries to figure out what the cloud might be.  As they enter the dim, cool woods she tries to spot orange things.  She sees an oriole and a kite, and then a tree that is completely orange.  It’s not until her dog rushes at the tree chasing a squirrel and the monarchs fly into the air that she realizes that the orange are monarch butterflies on their migration.

Markle has written this book in very evocative language, describing what Jilly is seeing with details.  The book is in verse, so the language is just right, creating a sense of mystery and wonder that readers are sure to feel clearly as they read.  The imagery here is clear and well drawn, comparing the butterflies to clouds and jewels.  Markle also draws the setting very clearly, showing the touch of sand on feet, the chill of the woods after the beach, and the play of light and dark in the woods.

Wu’s illustrations add to the beauty here.  Her pictures range from hazy, long-distance looks at the shore to the soft close-ups of the girl and her mother.  Everything is soft and filled with rich colors of fall.  The author’s note at the end of the book has information on Markle’s own experience with migrating monarchs as well as other resources for more information.

This is a perfect book to share in the autumn, but children will enjoy it year round.  The stellar writing and rich illustrations create a book that is impressive and enjoyable. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.