Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bird, Butterfly, Eel

Bird, Butterfly, Eel
story and illustrations by James Prosek
Simon and Schuster, 2009

I knew that birds and butterflies migrated, but I had no idea, until I read this book, that eels do, too.

The story begins in the summer, when bird is raising a nest of babies and butterflies eggs are turning to caterpillars, cocoons and new butterflies. The eel has been in the pond for many years and is eating and storing energy for her upcoming journey.

The bird flies to Argentina for the winter, the butterfly flies to Mexico, and the eel swims out of the pond into the creek and then the ocean and eventually to the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda. The barn cat, who is in all the pictures at the beginning of the book when the animals are being introduced in their habitats near the farm (pond, meadow and barn), lays at the window watching it snow.

Spring comes, and bird, butterfly and eel's babies return to the farm.

One of the best things about this book are the illustrations. For most of the book, when Prosek is telling about their differences, each animal gets its own page. But three times during the book (fall, winter and spring), when the animals are similar in their readiness to migrate, in their winter homes, and upon return to the farm, the page is split horizontally into three sections and the animals are shown together. The only illustration I would quibble with is the map that shows where each animal goes for the winter. Instead of doing separate illustrations of the continents (main idea) and the location of the pond (detail), Prosek stretched the northeastern United States, shrank South America, and made it one illustration. Artistic license, I guess. The rest of the book is so beautiful that it can be forgiven.

This is a book that could be included in a study of migrating animals, habitats, Colonial America (didn't they eat lots of eels? didn't you ever wonder about the life cycle of the eel?), similarities and differences, nonfiction with a circular text structure, or just because it's beautiful!

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