Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Monarch and Milkweed

Monarch and Milkweed

Helen Frost
Illustrator:  Leonid Gore 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Simon and Schuster, 2008   ISBN: 978-1416900856

This is the story of a plant and a butterfly, two species that coexist and whose life cycles are closely entwined. The plant is the milkweed and the butterfly is the monarch.

As milkweed plants flower and grow in the warm spring sunshine, a monarch, tired after its long migration north, sips nectar from the flower of a dandelion. Then the monarch alights on the milkweed and her feet tell her that she has found what she is looking for, "she tastes home." The milkweed's flowers dry up and the plant's seed pods swell. The monarch mates and then she flies back to the milkweed plant, where she carefully lays one egg on one of Milkweed's leaves.

Four days later a tiny caterpillar "shorter than an eyelash" hatches out of the egg and, after it eats its egg, it begins to eat the leaves of the milkweed plant. It continues to eat until it is ready to begin the remarkable transformation from being a caterpillar to being a beautiful monarch butterfly.

Readers will be stunned when they get their first glimpse of the pages in this book. The artwork, created using acrylics and pastels, is beautiful. The artist, by some magical process, has produced pictures that are softly colored, and which, at the same time, are textured to create an unusual effect. These pictures skillfully compliment the lyrical text which, as the story unfolds, shifts in its focus from the milkweed plant to the monarch butterfly, and then back to the milkweed plant. Back and forth we go, seeing how the insect and the plant are independent of one another and yet at the same time, closely bound.

An author's note at the back of the book provides the reader with further information about this special plant and animal relationship.