Butterfly for a King

By Publishers Weekly

Beginning with the history of Hawai‘i’s geological formation (“layers of lava piled up”) and moving to its sociopolitical history—King Kamehameha’s early 19th-century uniting of the island chain now known as a U.S. state—this nonfiction book centers Kamehameha’s namesake butterfly, which “lives in Hawai‘i and nowhere else on Earth.” After fifth grade students successfully campaigned to elect the butterfly as state insect in 2009, people became aware of its shrinking population and formed the Pulelehua Project, which, with the help of citizen scientists, bred and released thousands of the insects back into nature. The previous collaborators (Parrots over Puerto Rico) begin each page with spare, consecutive sentences, employing ellipses across the spread’s gutter (“Children spoke up.../ and a law was passed”) and a denser paragraph of additional information in each page’s lower third (“The students told lawmakers that the butterfly’s numbers were shrinking”). Roth’s intricate collages offer lush layers of cut shapes in a variety of colors and textures, which, combined with simple phrases (“Butterflies laid eggs.../ and caterpillars hatched), are particularly fitting for readers below the stated age range. An eco-conscious narrative suited to invigorating older children’s own activist efforts. Back matter includes an informative afterword, photographs, an illustrator’s note, and author’s sources. Ages 8–12.