Butterflies Belong Here

Illustrated by Meilo So

“I learned that in twenty years, the number of monarchs has fallen by ninety percent. The problem is so big, and butterflies are so small.”

Butterflies Belong Here follows a young girl through the seasons as she begins an inspiring butterfly-saving movement within her community. The unnamed female protagonist has been feeling quite out of place since immigrating to the United States, but one way she finds comfort is by reading butterfly books—specifically those about monarch butterflies. She becomes concerned when she learns that the monarch population is in decline decides to conduct a research project educate her classmates about the challenges that jeopardize the butterflies’ safety. The class, deeply moved, decides to embark on a new conservation project—creating a butterfly garden to aid the monarchs on their migration journey. As the operation gains momentum, it draws the attention of the entire community. The collaborative effort not only benefits the butterflies but also transforms the narrator, who discovers a newfound confidence and sense of belonging.

In Butterflies Belong Here, readers can follow along with the protagonist as she learns all about the remarkable life cycle and unique migration patterns. The book notably points out specific threats against the migration process, such as the logging of monarch resting spots. However, the primary factor behind the absence of butterflies in the protagonist’s town is the scarcity of milkweed, which is the exclusive diet of newly hatched larvae. The book explicitly attributes the milkweed shortage both to the adverse impacts of pesticides and to the impacts of climate change-induced droughts. Along with the facts spread throughout the story, the end of the book contains additional resources and information about the butterflies. For those looking for ways to help the monarchs, the author suggests partaking in local conservation projects like creating monarch way gardens and joining citizen science projects such as tracking monarch migration. This section also contains a brief point explaining why butterflies are so important to the environment due to their role as pollinators and their involvement in the food chain.

In addition to the book’s scientific content, Butterflies Belong Here’s narrative component demonstrates key climate literacy aspects as well. Firstly, it illustrates how stories serve as powerful tools. Despite the main character’s limited reading abilities, she is able to develop a profound empathy and appreciation for the monarchs by connecting her feelings of insignificance and lack of belonging to the lives of the butterflies she sees in her picture books. Eventually, her books help her overcome her initial lack of confidence and gain the courage to present her monarch way station idea to her class. This gradual character development underscores one of the central themes of the story, which is that “it just takes one person to get things started.” The demonstration of youth agency eventually spreads to her peers as well. The narrative highlights the importance of introducing climate change concepts from an early age by showing how the entire school (including the small kindergarteners) helped make significant change in their community in the spirit of youth climate activism. Their extensive conservation efforts also involve outreach to other schools, gardeners, and scientists, reflecting the need for a collective commitment to environmental issues.

©2024 ClimateLit (Alexandra Delacruz)


Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2020

Pages: 68

ISBN: 978-1452176802

Audience: Little People (4-7)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Citizen Science, Climate Change, Climate Literacy, Collective Action, Conservation, Drought, Empathy, Food Chains, Logging, Migration, Monarch Butterflies, Monarch Way Garden, Pesticides, Pollinators, Seasons, Wonder, Youth Agency, Youth Climate Activism