A beautiful book about a beautiful butterfly

          Monarch butterflies are in trouble, which makes Melissa Kim’s new book, A Monarch Butterfly Story, published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth, all the more important. Jada Fitch’s illustrations are beautiful, and Melissa gives us a wonderful story of a grandson in Maine who gets a special message from his grandfather in Texas, telling him that the Monarch Butterflies are “running out of food and places to live.”

In the last decade, the number of Monarch Butterflies has steeply declined, due mostly to habitat loss and climate change. Monarch caterpillars only eat leaves of milkweed plants, and lots of those plants have been eliminated across the country.

The grandson, Leo, gets inspired by his grandfather’s message, and gets to work with his teacher on a project to plant a butterfly garden.

          Three or four generations of Monarchs are born each season, and most live just three to five weeks. But the last generation of the season flies almost 3000 miles to winter in Mexico, an amazing journey.

The plants that Leo and his classmates planted grew slowly, and the kids were very excited, at the end of the summer, when a Monarch Butterfly arrived. Leo quickly contacted his grandfather to let him know.

That butterfly laid eggs on the milkweed, and when a caterpillar hatched, the kids were more than excited. That caterpillar formed a chrysalis, which turned into a beautiful butterfly. The final illustration is of the kids waving goodbye to the butterfly as it heads south.

          I can’t wait to read Melissa’s book to my 3-year-old granddaughter. We’ve already got her into bird watching. Butterfly watching will be next!

Linda and I are blessed by quite a few Monarch Butterflies at our house, mostly because Linda has made sure to maintain our milkweed. There is also a second grade teacher in Mount Vernon who does a Monarch Butterfly project each year with her students. Each kid gets a caterpillar and cares for it until the butterfly emerges.

Melissa’s four books were written and published as a partnership with Maine Audubon, which is working to save Monarchs and other threatened wildlife by restoring native plants including mildewed, and by raising awareness about the precipitous and preventable decline of these wonderful creatures.

Linda and I love the Thuya Gardens in Northeast Harbor, a stunningly beautiful flower garden on a granite hillside overlooking Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island. A special initiative at the Gardens focuses on Monarch butterflies, and that’s where I took the photos that accompany this column.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.