At the center of Madison's (The Littlest Grape Stomper) picture book is first-grader Velma Gratch; despite her round eyeglasses and bushy red pigtails, she worries that she isn't as memorable as her well-known older siblings-until she discovers butterflies. "She adored the ones with colorful names: brown elfin, frosted flasher, sleepy orange. And the ones with funny names: comma, question mark, American snout." During a school trip to a butterfly conservatory, which Velma aptly calls a "can-serve-the-story" in a humorous if too-cute Junie B.-esque malapropism, the otherwise ordinary story veers abruptly into fantasy. A monarch perches on Velma's finger and won't let go (she attends ballet class with it on her finger and sleeps with her butterfly hand on a pillow), finally giving her the distinction she craves. Hawkes's (Library Lion) paintings ably convey the colorful differences between the types of butterflies. His work shines most brightly, perhaps, on his witty endpapers: the opening papers show caterpillars (including an "orange-tipped Gratch"); the papers at the end display butterflies (Velma is now a "Small Gratchis"), underscoring the character's own metamorphosis. Both adults and emerging conservationists should appreciate this leisurely story about finding one's bliss. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
AGERANGE: Ages 5 to 9.
When Velma Gratch enters first grade, all the teachers have marvelous memories of her two "practically perfect" older sisters. Poor Velma struggles to find a subject in which to excel. A visit to the Butterfly Conservatory with her classmates becomes a field trip neither Velma nor her classmates will forget and is the vehicle which Velma needs to prove she is way cool. As she walks through the exhibit, the timid girl desperately want a butterfly to touch her and she holds her breath as one gentle monarch lands on her finger. There it stays on the bus ride home, all the next day in school, even through ballet and soccer. Velma proudly parades her butterfly to the park with the whole class and principal following to release the monarch for its long trek to Mexico. Velma has done something as marvelous as her sisters. This celebration of one child overcoming her timidity and undergoing her own metamorphosis is nicely balanced with butterfly information from metamorphosis to migration. It does take a stretch of imagination to believe the butterfly would stay of Velma's fingers for several days but her joy is so infectious it is easy to cheer her on. The bright, energetic illustrations move the story along. You cannot help but like Velma; she is way cool. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
First-time first-grader Velma Gratch finds that extricating herself from the grandiose shadows of her older sisters is a daunting task. Frieda and Fiona were beloved of every teacher that Velma now has, and even when she does get some attention it tends to be of the negative variety. It's only when her class begins a unit on butterflies that Velma really begins to come into her own. Science is an area that neither of her sisters ever gave much thought to, and a class trip to the local butterfly conservatory is heaven to Velma. Unexpectedly, while she's there, a single monarch lands on her finger, refusing to let go. The solution to this predicament happily gives both girl and butterfly exactly what they need. Madison's tale of a child finding a way to distinguish herself works in a variety of fun butterfly facts. Hawkes deftly replicates the wingspan of a monarch butterfly in Velma's thick ponytails, giving the general impression of a girl emerging from her old self into her new. (Picture book. 5-8)