Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery
Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Yas Imamura
For hundreds of years as butterflies with orange-and-black wings as intricate as stained glass came and went in communities across North America, many people wondered “Where are they going?” In 1976, this question was finally answered—it was the Great Monarch Butterfly Migration! Each year, people discovered, millions of monarchs flew thousands of miles from Canada to a roosting place in the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico.
Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery reveals the diverse community of people who worked together to track the butterflies and find their migration path. Through vibrant illustrations, readers are taken on a journey following the monarchs and meeting the people they encounter along the way.
Backmatter includes an Author’s Note explaining more about the Monarch Migration as well as information on ways that readers can help sustain the Monarch population, making Winged Wonders a stirring book to share with nature lovers, young conservationists, backyard gardeners, and students in STEM/STEAM-related lessons.
When a book is this intriguing, you just can’t wait to see it! But before I reveal the cover of this book, which KIRKUS—in their starred review—calls “riveting” and “a fascinating and inspiring STEAM-driven tale,” let’s chat with author Meeg Pincus and illustrator Yas Imamura who have brought this extraordinary story to kids.
Meet Meeg Pincus
Meeg Pincus is a children’s author and speaker who loves telling stories about real people who have helped others, animals, and the planet. She lives in San Diego, California. To learn more about her and her books, visit her website.
Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery presents such a fascinating way to look at monarch butterflies. Can you describe the story a little and talk about what inspired you to write it from this perspective?
Thank you, Kathy! Well, I got sucked into the history of the mysterious monarch migration several years ago when I took my kids to see a movie about it at our San Diego science museum’s amazing domed IMAX theatre. (I went back two more times!) I originally started researching a person on the 1970s tracking team for a picture book biography, but then a series of events led me to rethink that. I came to realize that an even more interesting approach was a collective one. It took many people to put the pieces together of this great “discovery”—from scientists to citizen scientists to everyday folks paying attention to nature—and that’s an important lesson for kids. So, using questions, my story takes kids on a journey to meet different people who each played a part, large or small, in solving the great monarch mystery. Then, it comes back around to asking kids what part they might be able to play in keeping the (now threatened) monarchs alive today.
How did you go about researching this story?
To get information on the people involved in tracking the migration, I collected every primary source I could, from articles they wrote to interviews they gave (so, words from their own mouths) and photos of them during that time. I also found secondary sources—articles about the monarchs’ roosting place “discovery” in the 1970s as well as a whole book about all the drama in the world of monarch science (who knew?!). By the way, I use the term “discovery” in quotes because it’s important to realize that there were people in Mexico who knew the whereabouts of the monarchs’ remote roosting place for generations. I also turned to the citizen science organization Monarch Watch, at the University of Kansas (descended from the original tracking team), for information as well; and we were fortunate that one of their experts agreed to serve as the book’s fact-checker.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing Winged Wonders?
Honestly, it was that drama in the world of monarch research. There’s been competition over who gets credit for what, over the sharing (or not sharing) of information, etc. For me, this was actually all the more reason to focus my picture book not just on one person but on how it takes a lot of people working together to further scientific knowledge—and protect species.
This gorgeous cover is just a peek at Yas Imamura’s illustrations. Can you give readers a taste of what they have to look forward to? Do you have a favorite spread?
Oh, we could not have asked for more gorgeous and spot-on illustrations than what Yas created for this book! The whole team at Sleeping Bear Press has been thrilled with her vibrant images, which feel both 1970s and totally today, all at once. I like so many, it’s hard to pick just one—I love how she shows the monarchs flying through Dia de los Muertos celebrations, to them roosting in the trees of central Mexico, to the diversity of citizen scientists she created. I think readers are going to just eat up her illustrations!
On your website, you talk about your work as a Humane Educator. Can you describe Humane Education and its goal? Does being a Humane Educator influence your writing? In what way?
Sure! Humane education teaches about making conscious choices that help people, animals, and the planet. It focuses on empathy and compassion as means to taking action for a more humane, healthy, and just world. I found humane education when my kids were very young and it just brought together all my values and studies. So, I trained with two nonprofit organizations (The Institute for Humane Education and HEART) and started going into local classrooms as a humane educator to do lessons with the kids. As part of my lessons, I decided to read the kids picture book biographies about real people who’ve made a difference for people, animals, and the planet. I fell in love with these books, and realized they also perfectly brought together my background of 20+ years writing/editing nonfiction and my work in humane education—so, I decided to dive into writing them myself as my next career step as nonfiction writer/humane educator!
You also talk about teaching children to be solutionaries. I love that term! Would you define what a solutionary is? You also say that you now write “solutionary stories.” How does Winged Wonders fit into that description and how do you hope the book will influence young readers?
I love the term, too! I got it from my training in humane education. The full definition of a solutionary is “a person who identifies inhumane and unsustainable systems, then develops healthy and just solutions for people, animals, and the environment.” I simplify it for younger kids (I like to use the idea of “solutionary super powers” that we all possess to help others!). Kids really embrace being problem-solvers for people, animals, and the planet. As in Winged Wonders, I focus my books on solutionary people, ideas, and issues—ways people are helping, or can help, create that healthy, kind, and just world for all. I hope my books help inspire kids to find whatever issue affecting people, animals, or the planet sparks their own inner fire and then use their own unique talents and ideas to make a positive impact on it.
One last thing: We’re doing a special Winged Wonders Pre-order Offer with San Diego indie bookstore, Run for Cover—a signed hardback copy with a solutionary sticker and monarch bookmark—which can be sent anywhere in the U.S.
You can connect with Meeg Pincus on
Her website | Facebook | Twitter
Meet Yas Imamura
Yas Imamura is an illustrator, graphic designer, and owner of the stationary company Quill & Fox. She grew up in Manila, Philippines, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Discover more about her work on her website.
What about this story particularly resonated with you?
What I love most about the story is the community aspect to the monarch search—how every person from all walks of life came together in shared curiosity and helped get to the bottom of the monarch mystery.
Can you describe the process for creating and choosing this beautiful cover?
I started with a few sketches, focusing in different imagery. Some early concepts honed in on the monarch butterfly, some with playing on the mystery of their flight. But eventually I ended up emphasizing the people in the story as well, as they play such a huge part in tracking the monarch migration.
Many of your stationery products from your company Quill and Fox as well as your other illustration work incorporate nature themes. What is it about nature that inspires you?
What inspires me most about nature is how incredibly challenging it is for me to really capture. It can be simplistic and incredibly mercurial at the same time, which I think is the beauty of it. As an artist, I feel like I’m always trying to climb that hill.
What kind of research did you do to bring this story to life?
Researching this book was a lot of fun. I was fortunate enough to be given a lot of take-off point resources that I built from. I looked up Catalina’s story a lot to gain insight on her character, her clothes, the era. The movie Flight of the Butterflies also inspired me greatly in pushing the narrative visually. There was so much color to the whole story as we trace the journey of these butterflies, and I really wanted to incorporate all that.
What feelings from the story did you most want to express in your illustrations? What do you hope readers will take away from them?
I want to evoke a sense of fascination and curiosity for these butterflies. And that perhaps learning about the incredible journey and impact of the monarch butterflies could lay the groundwork for us, as caretakers of nature, to give respect and reverence for even the smallest members of our ecosystem.
What do you love about being a picture book illustrator?
Seeing readers, young and old, pour over the pages that I’ve illustrated, especially when they’re reading it to someone else, will never, never get old. It’s the ultimate payoff for me.
You can connect with Yas Imamura on
Her website | Instagram | Instagram: Quill and Fox | Twitter
Thanks so much Meeg and Yas! I’m sure readers are as excited to read Wings of Wonder: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery as I am! We might have to wait a little bit longer until the book releases in March to read it, but we don’t have to wait any longer to see the stunning cover!
And now I’m thrilled to reveal…
Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery Giveaway
I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:
- One (1) copy of Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, written by Meeg Pincus| illustrated by Yas Imamura
Here’s how to enter:
- Follow Sleeping Bear Press
- Follow Celebrate Picture Books
- Retweet a giveaway tweet
- Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of butterfly for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).
- This giveaway is open from January 8 through January 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.
A winner will be chosen on January 15. Prize book will be sent from Sleeping Bear Press in February.
Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.
To learn more about Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery and other marvelous books from Sleeping Bear Press, visit their website.
You can preorder Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery from these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound |Run for Cover
Picture Book Review
Oh, and my favorite butterfly? Nabokov’s Blues!
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A beautiful choice!
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I’ve read several monarch books, so I’m really looking forward to adding this one to my collection. I am concerned, though, after reading recently that monarch migration is getting dicey, due to climate change.
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Right! I think that’s why this book is all the more important – to show people that they can make a difference along the route and help these gorgeous creatures thrive. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
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Great book! I can’t wait to see it! My favorite butterfly, aside from the monarch is the Sacramento Mountain Checkerspot, in New Mexico. I worked with the local community to try to restore habitat for this rare butterfly.
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I wasn’t familiar with this butterfly. It really is a wonder! Thank you for helping to protect it!
Really looking forward to reading this! I love monarchs and even did an art project on them as a teen (this from someone who can’t draw stick figures!).
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Butterflies really are inspirational! You will love Winged Wonders!