Antoine Flatharta's previous children's book, The Prairie Train, won the Western Writers of America Spur Award. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.
Meilo So's watercolor illustrations have graced a number of children's books about nature, including Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City and The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom. He lives in the Shetland Islands, Scotland.
A garden in Wichita Falls, Tex., unites two unlikely friends one October morning. Hurry, a tortoise, becomes a landing pad for a monarch butterfly making a momentary pit stop on her 2,000-mile migration to Mexico. Neither tortoise nor butterfly can grasp the other's point of view. The butterfly, whose brusque, driven personality makes a comic contrast to elegant, aerodynamic body, suggests to the genially sluggish tortoise, "Maybe one day you'll break out of that shell, grow wings, and fly away.... It happened to me." Hurry, on the other hand, shares his strategy for the winter, "Sleep.... Cold days always change back into warm days if you wait." As the monarch continues on her way, joining others like her, So (Countdown to Spring!) fills the pages with clouds of orange that seem to light up the sky and ignite trees and bushes. Flatharta (The Prairie Train) softens the conversational narrative and introduces a sense of wonder ("She hangs from a bough, adding her tired wings to the soft murmur of a million others"). Without lecturing, the author impresses upon readers the magnitude of the events. The conclusion brings the life cycle full circle, as the monarch returns to Hurry's garden to drop her eggs-and Hurry gets a front row seat at the egg's amazing transformation. In the space of a brief picture book, Flatharta and So endow a biological phenomenon with fully realized characters, creating a work that's by turns funny, wistful and informative. Children will likely put down this book and look at the world with new eyes. Ages 5-8. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
K-Gr 2-Hurry, a tortoise, exchanges quips with a monarch butterfly as she stops in Wichita Falls, TX, while migrating from Canada to Mexico. The encounter, told in the present tense, frames a simple, fairly straightforward account of the monarch's long journey and life cycle. The stay in Mexico gets brief coverage. The butterfly returns in the spring, lands on Hurry's shell, lays her eggs on nearby milkweed, and flies off for her final rest. The tortoise then watches the transformation of one of the new caterpillars as it grows, forms a chrysalis, and emerges as a new monarch. The writing includes some jocular dialogue but is sometimes awkward in construction. So's shimmering watercolors are quite lovely, melding a bit of humor, broad impressionistic strokes, and fairly realistic sketches of some monarchs and caterpillars. A general map serving as front and back end pages broadly indicates this monarch's journey. Texas and Wichita Falls are the only marked places, though the text also refers to Eagle Pass, the Rio Grande, and the towns of Sweetwater and Stillwater. A final two-page essay for adults adds more details on monarchs.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"A [Canada-to-Mexico] migrating butterfly provides Hurry, a Texas tortoise, with perspective on the world beyond his garden. 'Maybe one day, you'll break out of that shell, grow wings, and fly away, ' the butterfly remarks to Hurry. 'I doubt it, ' he replies, then contentedly settles down to hibernate. He wakes in the spring to see the same butterfly alight on a milkweed plant depositing an egg, which hatches, grows, and metamorphoses under Hurry's watchful eye. . . . Together with its informative afterword, this is a particularly attractive, affecting introduction to the wonder of species diversity and the elegant continuum of life."--Booklist, Starred