‘The Butterfly’ – Look at THIS book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

 Butterfly

Today’s great book:  The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco (2000, Philomel)

Time to Read: a moving story of history and childhood captured in a children’s book for bedtime or anytime reading

Summary:  Publishers Weekly wrote, for ages 4-8, “Polacco continues to mine her family history, this time telling the story of an aunt’s childhood in wartime France. Young Monique doesn’t comprehend the brutality of the Nazis’ mission until the day three German soldiers find her admiring a butterfly…then grabs the butterfly and crushes it in his fist. The butterfly, or papillon as it is frequently called here, becomes for Monique a symbol of the Nazis’ victims. Her sympathies are quickly focused: one night Monique wakes up to discover a girl in her bedroom and learns that she and her parents, Jews, have been hiding for months in Monique’s house, protected by Monique’s mother. The girl, Sevrine, has been forbidden to leave the hiding place, so she and Monique meet secretly. Then a neighbor sees the two girls at the window one night, and Sevrine’s family must flee…”

Best Quote:  “They both watched as butterflies started to land on the dry stalks of faded flowers.  First there were three, then ten, then twenty and thirty.  Neighbors came out fo their cottages and peered over the wall in wonder.”

Our View:  I was stunned by this children’s book.  It is one of those books that you want everyone to know about and read.  I urge you to find it and read it with your family.  We read the first pages knowing very little about where the plot would take us, so each page was a treasure and a surprise and painful and wonderful and mysterious and ultimately uplifting.  The author’s note about the actual history behind the story is worth its weight in gold.  This is an important work that has become an instant classic at our house.  The book we are most familiar with from this author is Pink and Say (1994, Philomel).  We’ll review that one here soon!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Butterflies Rising” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

The Coolest Maps of Childhood

This week in the teacher education class that I teach at our local college, we are talking about geography – what it looks like through the perspective of young children between the ages of around 4 or 5 to between 8 and 10, and how to teach it to them in a vibrant way. Our goal in any type of instruction is to start with what the learner knows and then bring them along in teaching them something we want them to know.  A map does much the same thing – it shows us where we are and where we want to go.

Map Winnie the Pooh

This is why this evening’s lecture is among my favorite subjects for one reason – these incredible maps!  When you think about it, it is really astounding how much maps are a part of our lives. Whether it is the three or four apps for maps that I have on my cell phone or the Garmin navigator in our car or the bookmarked map website on my desktop or those peculiarly large and colorful maps at the mall – we use them all the time.

Incredibly, some of your favorite books from childhood probably included a map.  For example, think of the classics like Winnie the Pooh, The Hobbit, My Father’s Dragon, and Treasure Island. Each of these books has the most elaborate and childlike map on their end pages or mixed among the chapter titles. Their illustrators inherently understood the powerful use of maps in the lives of children and books.

Map treasure-Island

And if you haven’t read the original Pooh books in years or haven’t looked over the wonderfully detailed maps of My Father’s Dragon, this is the weekend to do such things!

Here’s why – maps give children a sense of place in the world that exists around their home and in the world that exists around their imagination. So take them on a walk around your world this evening. Show them on a big map some exotic far-off place you want to visit with them before you die. Make your own map of the Land of Oz or Journey to the Center of the Earth this Sunday afternoon. Bury some treasure-filled shoebox in the backyard and make the coolest old pirate map drawn with crayons on a brown paper sack. Or instead of drawing it, build your map with blocks or clay or legos or even old fruit from the fridge! Your kids (and you) will love every word and every memory and every map you make of it.

Map My Fathers Dragon