Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey
written by Loree Griffin Burns; photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
2014 (Milbrook Press)
Source: Mebane Public Library
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Handle With Care starts with a photograph of three rows of butterfly pupae. It's an eye-catching picture that makes you think about the differences between the pupae. It also made me think, "What is coming out of that?". These pupae arrive in a silver box that when opened, reveals a cross between Christmas for an entomologist and Forrest Gump. Yes, a box of bugs with each in its own little slot. Just avoid the one with nougat. The box has arrived at the Museum of Science in Boston. Where did it come from? El Bosque Nuevo, which is a butterfly farm in Costa Rica. This will blow your students' minds because they think of farms only as places that produce food. Loree Griffin Burns is extra smart and I know this because she takes this angle on page 10. That's called knowing your audience. What follows is an account of how this farm helps produce pupae that are shipped around the world. I love the details that are provided in the narrative. We learn how farmers have to provide plates of crushed bananas and cups of sugar water for the adult butterflies in the greenhouse. The photograph on page 14 looks like a Golden Corral for butterflies. On Tuesdays, larvae eat free! You also learn that it is important for farmers to keep out other animals. Some need to be kept out because they eat caterpillars and butterflies. Others are kept out because they will eat the plants in the greenhouse. Then there's the puparium which is a place containing cabinets of caterpillars that aren't far from transitioning into pupae. When the caterpillars turn into pupae, they are pinned to a board so they can have a place to hang. Some pupae are shipped to places like museums, others stay at the greenhouse to create the next generation of butterflies, and the rest are released into the nearby forest.
I like that the text in Handle With Care is not wonky which makes it much easier to share with a K-2 audience. The photographs are fantastic. It would be an interesting discussion to talk about how these pictures are important to the book. The back matter is also great as you have a page about the different types of metamorphosis and another page that talks about words used to describe the life cycles of insects.
If you teach a unit on life cycles, find this book because your students will be fascinated by the work of these farmers in Costa Rica. They have a genuine appreciation and care for the butterflies that they farm. This is the kind of attitude toward living things that we want to impart to our students. Plus, it's just a really cool book!