Journeys in Nature

Bird, Butterfly, Eel
Story and paintings by James Prosek
Simon & Schuster, hardcover

I hadn’t read the author’s first book for children, A Good Day’s Fishing, but I did read his YA novel, The Day My Mother Left. I loved the gentle language of that book, the deep emotion, and the way that both art and nature were integral parts of Jeremy’s life. Prosek returns to the picture book format in his new title, a story of migration as exemplified by a barn swallow, monarch butterfly, and an American eel. The language here is simple and direct, perfect as an introduction to migration for young readers. “Bird lives in the barn at the end of the meadow, in nests she made of mud and straw. She loves being safe, high up in the rafters, away from the barn cats.” Rich watercolors fill the pages with realistic detail and color, showing us the bird, fish and insect habitats and journeys individually, as well as the three simultaneously on pages spilt in thirds. The cycle begins in summer. “With the cool winds of autumn, Bird, Butterfly, and Eel sense a change, feel restless, and know that this means it is time to leave the farm.” From their farm in New England they soon reach the ocean and then go their separate ways; a map displays the different routes each follows to reach South America, Mexico and the Sargasso Sea. The skillful use of language and pictures allow children to grasp the miracle and mysteries of migration. The creatures’ return is documented as spring turns to summer, “(A)nd the cycle begins again.” A section titled “Real Facts About the Bird, the Butterfly, and the Eel” provides more information including the need for conservation efforts. Really a lovely book. (And the endpapers too are lovely – black ink drawings resembling stamped art, of swallows, butterflies, eels, water lilies, and spidery milkweed puffs.)

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