Does your child love butterflies? Explore these butterfly books for kids, from the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to nonfiction facts.
Butterflies are all colors of the rainbow and exist all over the world, so why not have a multicultural round-up of children’s books as well? We visited the Butterfly Garden exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston last week, and here is a list of books to round out the visit.
What is your favorite butterfly book for kids? Please share and I’ll add to the list. I especially need non-fiction books!
Butterfly Books for Kids
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
A beloved classic, the very hungry caterpillar eats an amazing array of different things before turning into a butterfly. [picture book, ages 1 and up]
The Butterfly Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta
Pallotta’s alphabet books are like mini encyclopedia’s with a plethora of interesting facts on butterflies from A to Z, starting with the Apollo butterfly and ending with the Zephyr Metalmark. [picture book, age 4 and up]
La Mariposa by Francisco Jimenez, illustrated by Simon Silva
Francisco, the son of itinerant workers, starts school not speaking a word of English. It’s hard to pay attention when everything sounds like gibberish and gives him a headache. The classroom pet is a caterpillar and Francisco wonders how it turns into a butterfly.
When things are hard at school, he turns to the jar with the caterpillar. When the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, Francisco has a surprise too. His drawing of a butterfly has won first prize and he uses it to make a new friend. [advanced picture book, ages 6 and up]
Señorita Mariposa by Ben Gundersheimer, illustrated by Marcos Almada Rivero
Review from Latinos in KidLit:
“Señorita Mariposa is a tribute to the monarch butterfly and its annual journey to and from their ancestral home. Mister G’s lyrical text in both English and Spanish not only demonstrate a fondness of the monarch, but also its journey to Mexico.
The bilingual lyrical text is playful, yet informative. Both languages are side by side, and if the reader looks closely, sometimes the languages alternate on the text. For example, on one page, the English lyrical text is first, and on the following page, the Spanish text is first. It is a great fit for bilingual readers who may read and sing in both languages.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope, illustrated by Sue Riddle
In simple but engaging graphics, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar knows, “I don’t know much, but I know what I know. I gotta go! I gotta go! I gotta go to Mexico!” It’s the perfect introduction of the Monarch butterfly journey for preschoolers! [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Hurry and the Butterfly by Antoine O Flatharta, illustrated by Meilo So
It’s fun to meet a monarch butterfly from the perspective of a wise, old tortoise!
Hurry the tortoise lives in Texas and after he meets a monarch butterfly traveling north, he dreams of the butterflies’ migration. When the butterflies return, the very same butterfly lays eggs in a nearby milkweed plant. Hurry carefully observes the butterflies’ life-cycle.
When the new butterflies emerge, Hurry is there to guide them as they go off to see the world. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting
A granddaughter and her grandfather make a special butterfly house to raise a Painted Lady caterpillar saved from a bird.
In a beautiful circle of life, the caterpillar becomes a butterfly and is set free. The little girl becomes a grandmother herself, always visited by butterflies, who remember her kindness a long time ago. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Prince of Butterflies by Bruce Coville, illustrated by John Clapp
Eleven-year-old John Farrington’s life changed forever when monarch butterflies visited his home and pleaded with him to help them find green space. Their habitat had been destroyed and they didn’t know how to find their way.
He flew with them (somehow), leading him to study butterflies in college though he could never bear to kill butterflies as specimens. Thirty years later, he persuaded Congress to pass “The Butterfly Road” bill which saved the Monarchs from extinction. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
The Butterfly Boy by Laurence Yep
A gorgeously illustrated picture book, Yep’s story has the feel of a Chinese Folk Tale but it is, in fact, based on the writings of 4th-century philosopher Chuang Tzu. Does the boy become a butterfly or does the butterfly become a boy? [advanced picture book, ages 7 and up]
Isabel’s House of Butterflies by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Susan Guevara
Deep in the forests of Michoacan, Mexico, in an area of about 300 miles square, is a natural sanctuary for monarch butterflies.
Once in secret, but now more openly, loggers are felling the trees. On a smaller scale, people living in deep poverty here sometimes chop down a butterfly tree to sell the wood — to survive.
This is a tough year, un tigre. The beans are few. The ears of corn stubby and small. Will Isabel’s family have to sell their butterfly tree to eat? Isabel loves the tree and the butterflies that visit. Or can she come up with an idea to save her beloved tree? [advanced picture book, ages 5 and up]
Kaito’s Cloth by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Gaye Chapman
With the winter days approaching, young Kaito journeys to the Mountain of Dreams to watch her butterflies soar one last time. However, when she reaches her destination after an arduous three-day trek, she is too late. Her butterflies have died. “Weep no more,” says the Lord of Flight, creator of all butterflies. “Only the wings are stilled. Flight is eternal.” Inspired, Kaito has an idea: She takes a silver needle and soft spider’s silk, and sews a pair of wings that take breath in the wind. With her kite, now everyone can enjoy the beauty of a butterfly’s flight all winter long. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Butterflies for Kiri by Cathryn Falwell
A gift of beautiful origami paper from Kiri’s Auntie Lu seemed like the perfect gift for Kiri since she loves to paint and draw. But when Kiri tries to fold the origami butterfly, she ruins the paper! Origami is a lot harder than it looks!
Even though she practices on scrap paper, the origami butterfly eludes her folding skills. One day, inspired by a yellow butterfly, she tries again. This time, though dissatisfied with her painting of a garden, she folds a perfect butterfly. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Here are directions to fold an Origami Butterfly from Go Origami. Warning: the origami butterfly is intermediate level.
Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by DeAnn Wiley
Sarah attends a protest march with her father after another black person is killed by the police. She sees a policeman swat a monarch butterfly to the ground and goes to rescue it. When she looks up, her father is gone. Other people at the rally help her find her father. It was a sad and scary day, but when she checks on her butterfly the next day, it healed, and she frees it. Black children have been activists, protesting during the dangerous times of the Civil Rights protests. This is a reminder that there is still much work to be done. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
When the Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little
When mysterious butterflies begin to arrive shortly after Grammy Claire’s funeral, Tara just knows her grandmother has left her a final mystery to solve. A stack of keys, notes from the beyond, and an ominous secret allows Tara to come to terms with her grandmother’s death, the complexities of her family, and the powers of love and redemption.
Review by Augusta Scattergood.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
While this Newbery Honor chapter book is not specifically about butterflies, I’ve included it since Calpurnia (a.k.a. Callie V.) is a budding young naturalist who can whip out the Latin names for many species of plants, insects, and animals.
A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston
Thank you to Natalie for this great book recommendation. She says, “There are a few books on this list that I really want to find in our library. There is a new entry in an excellent non-fiction series by Dianna Hutts Aston, it’s called A Butterfly Is Patient.”
“A lovely mix of science and wonder.” – Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“Similar butterfly albums abound, but none show these most decorative members of the insect clan to better advantage” – Kirkus Reviews
“This lovely combination of elegant watercolors and lyrical text is both eye-catching and informative” – School Library Journal Starred Review
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle
Thank you to Ann of Doodles and Jots for recommending Summer Birds. She says, ” I like a picture book called Summer Birds.”
In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed. She watched carefully as caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths. Maria studied the whole life cycle of the summer birds, and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings.
This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece.
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman
This is a spectacular book that reflects the incredible accomplishments of Maria Merian. She was an artist who also should be known as the Mother of Ecology who lived in 17th century Germany when such interests could be punishable by death.
In the same way that Maria lured people into science through her artworks, Joyce Sidman combines Maria’s story with science and art.
The artwork is carefully chosen to showcase both Maria and her family’s pieces as well how her art influenced others both in her time and beyond. Maria’s careful observations of the life cycles of insects and amphibians came at a time when the general population believed in spontaneous generation.
The chapters reflect Maria’s life cycle, showing her own evolution from dependence to independence. I hope that this book wins a Newbery and Silbert. It is most deserving. But awards aside, give this book to girls as a female STEM inspiration. [nonfiction chapter book, ages 8 and up]
Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison
I found this great book recommendation via No Time for Flashcards from her guest author, A Mom With a Lesson Plan:
Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly is about a little girl who wants desperately to be known for something. When her class begins studying butterflies and even visits a conservatory she finds just how to make herself stand out. I love, love, love how fun this little scientist is and how she becomes known for something she is good at.
A monarch roosts on Velma’s finger on a class trip to the magnificent Butterfly Conservatory and won’t budge for days. This results in making Velma Gratch unforgettable!
Another great review from Bookworm Bear.
The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Solimar was a very engaging character who bristled a bit at her upbringing but in general was up for embracing any adventure that came her way, which I appreciated. Her family, while fairly traditional, was also open to change and didn’t try to change her too much, although they did want her to make more of an effort to be a princess, such as not wearing her boots with her Quinceañera dress. It was a nice change to not have them be mean about it! The magic and herbal healing were a nice touch, and I would gladly read a whole book about a young abuela being trained by Doña Flora! Berto was very helpful, and the two got along well on their adventure. This was a fast-paced, pleasant read, and I loved the inclusion of information about the importance of monarch butterflies and what can be done to save them.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Creating your own Monarch Butterfly rest stop can help make a huge impact on the rapid decline of Monarch butterfly populations. It provides a safe haven for Monarchs to feed, rest, or lay their eggs.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.