The Prince of Butterflies

The Prince of Butterflies

5.0 1
by Bruce Coville, John Clapp

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One boy's life-changing summer, when he flew on borrowed wings. See more details below


One boy's life-changing summer, when he flew on borrowed wings.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Coville's (Into the Land of the Unicorns) sometimes moving but ultimately puzzling picture book is constructed a bit like a film drama that rolls a documentary-style addendum at the end. One afternoon, a flock of migrating monarch butterflies surrounds 11-year-old John. The green field where the flock had stopped on its path south has been bulldozed for a development. They beg John ("not in words but quite clearly nevertheless") to show them the way to a new resting place, and they transform him into a butterfly ("brushing him with their wings, dropping their tiny scales on... his two legs, four legs, six legs") so that he can lead them there. Both the experience of flying and the privilege of saving the monarchs elate the boy. Clapp's (The Stone Fey) uncannily lifelike watercolors feature close-ups of butterflies and aerial shots. The story's second section follows "John Farrington" as he grows up and becomes an activist who helps pass legislation to preserve monarch habitats "The Butterfly Road" bill. Of course, there is no such activist, and no such legislation, either. In the end, Farrington is surrounded by another flock of his beloved monarchs, which, for one last time, transform his aged body into a butterfly's. The shifts between fantasy and accurate details give the story sophisticated, screenplay-style impact; whether younger readers will understand the blurred boundaries between fiction and fact is less clear. Ages 6-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-This sentimental tale was originally published in a slightly different form in Disney's Big Time (May, 1995). A flock of monarchs finds an ally in 11-year-old John Farrington as he helps them locate the diminishing green spaces along their migratory path. They cluster around his body and turn him into a butterfly so that he can lead them to places with grass and trees in his part of the world. Before he turns 17, the butterflies visit each spring and he continues to assist them. As an adult, he becomes a lepidopterist and persuades Congress to pass "The Butterfly Road" bill to set aside migratory resting places for the monarchs. Finally, when he is aged and wheelchair-bound, the butterflies return to transform John for the last time. (An author's note explains that while the character is fictional, the threat to the monarchs and their habitats is real.) The narrative adopts a brisk, documentary tone, and Clapp's watercolor illustrations capably deal with the text, but little is conveyed overall of the awe or magic the story's events would imply.-Kathie Meizner, Montgomery County Public Libraries, Chevy Chase, MD Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The prolific, multitalented Coville (Half-Human, 2001, etc.) takes off in a different direction with this unusual story of a boy who bonds with a migrating flock of monarch butterflies, emphasizing so strongly with their plight of diminishing habitat that he actually briefly becomes one of them. The boy, John Farrington, leads the butterflies to a new habitat, and repeats his unusual transformation (from boy to butterfly and back again) several times until he leaves for college to become an entomologist. Farrington, presumably a historical figure, becomes a butterfly researcher (though he can't bear to collect specimens) and was instrumental in the successful passage of the "Butterfly Road" bill in Congress, helping to preserve monarchs as a species. The rather long story concludes with Farrington as an elderly, wheelchair-bound man, visited by a swarm of monarchs who carry him away in one final transforming moment. Clapp (Right Here On This Spot, 1999, etc.) provides magical, misty watercolor illustrations that turn a rather unbelievable story into a meaningful fairy tale with an ecological message and a comforting, metaphorical view of life after death. Some will find this story lightweight and sentimental; others will see the trajectory of meaning inherent in a committed life. (Picture book. 6-9)
From the Publisher

"A meaningful fairy tale with an ecological message."--Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

Bt Bound
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Meet the Author

BRUCE COVILLE is the author of over 100 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller My Teacher is an Alien, the Unicorn Chronicles series, and the much-beloved Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. His work has appeared in a dozen languages and won children's choice awards in a dozen states. Before becoming a full time writer Bruce was a teacher, a toymaker, a magazine editor, a gravedigger, and a cookware salesman. He is also the creator of Full Cast Audio, an audiobook company devoted to producing full cast, unabridged recordings of material for family listening and has produced over a hundred audiobooks, directing and/or acting in most of them. Bruce lives in Syracuse, New York, with his wife, illustrator and author Katherine Coville. Visit his website at

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