About the Holiday
Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly.
I received a copy of Winged Wonders from Sleeping Bear Press for review of consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.
Winged Wonders: Solving the Migration Mystery
Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Yas Imamura
For centuries people pondered the mystery of the monarch butterflies that “swooped in for a spell, like clockwork” from who-knew-where and fluttered off to some unseen destination. People all along their route, “from southern Canada…through the middle of the United States…and all the way to central Mexico” wondered about this annual event. The mystery was finally solved in 1976. What was it that set these butterflies soaring? The newspapers called it “The Great Monarch Migration.”
You might wonder who the person was who “tracked these winged wonders from one end of the continent to the other” and “found their secret roosting place, a marvel of nature.” Perhaps it was Fred, a scientist from Canada, who spent thirty years studying the monarchs and tagging their wings. Or maybe it was his wife, Norah, who sought help in tagging monarchs’ wings from volunteers across the country and “logged and mapped every tidbit of information they sent in to the lab.”
Could it have been the thousands of “science teachers, backyard gardeners, and other curious souls” who answered Norah’s plea? Or you might want to consider Ken and Catalina, a couple in Mexico who spent two years “trying to track the butterflies’ twisting trail” with the help of villagers and farmers. You might even say that it was Jim, a science teacher in Minnesota, who caught and tagged a very particular one-among-millions monarch.
So who was it? Who made that 1976 discovery? If you say all of them, you’re right! Communities across the North American countries of Canada, America, and Mexico came together to solve the mystery of one of nature’s most astounding phenomena. But now, another question concerning monarchs looms: “How will they survive?” Since that first discovery, the monarch population has dropped from “at least a billion to millions—a handful now to each hundred then” due to pesticides, pollution, and habitat destruction. Who do you think can help solve this monarch question? “The answer is really no mystery at all.”
An extensive Author’s Note following the text offers more information about the monarch migration discovery as well as ideas and projects for helping the monarch population grow and thrive.
Mirroring the flight of the monarchs, Meeg Pincus entices readers along the route of her story with fascinating facts about the personalities and eager citizen scientists who dedicated their lives and contributed their time to catching, tagging, and tracking these beautiful butterflies. Surprising details reveal the commitment in time and effort of so many people who enthusiastically answered Norah’s call for help. Her questioning format builds this same feel of excitement and community as page-by-page more people are added for readers to learn about and consider. Pincus’s lyrical storytelling is as buoyant and lovely as her subject while providing readers with a depth of knowledge about the process and experiences of the people along the way.
Yas Imamura’s delicate butterflies flutter above multi-hued green hills, busy downtown shops, and a golden desert before congregating like autumn leaves on a solitary tree as a deer looks on. Readers then begin to meet the scientists & participants: Fred and Norah in their well-packed car awed at spotting a monarch along their route, experimenting with wing tags, and mapping monarch sightings; a diverse group of kids and adults catching, tagging, and releasing butterflies; Ken and Catalina and the people of central Mexico, who share their colorful Día de los Muertos celebrations with these winged visitors; and finally Jim and his students.
Imamura’s glorious color palette complements the orange monarchs with soft pinks, corals, yellows, and reds while dramatically highlighting them against dark green backgrounds. Show-stopping scenes of the monarchs gathered on tree trunks and branches and the final spread of a butterfly garden are awe-inspiring and will spark children’s interest in helping to protect and help these unique creatures.
Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery is a must for home, school, and public library collections for nature lovers, citizen scientists, and any child who is a budding environmentalist as well as for lessons on science and community engagement.
Ages 7 – 10
Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110403
Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.
To learn more about Yas Imamura, her books, and her art, visit her website.
You can download an Educational Guide with activities for Winged Wonders on the Sleeping Bear Press website.
Spring Equinox Activity
Plant a Flower Garden Game
With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully blossom first!
- Printable Flower Garden Plot Game Board
- Printable Flower Garden Playing Cards
- Printable Flower Garden Playing Die
- Black or brown crayon (optional)
- Card stock or heavy paper for printing (optional)
Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden row with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one.
- Players can “plant” each of the six rows with multiple flowers of the same type
- Each player can be assigned a single row and “plant” one each of the six types of flowers
- Print number of Game Boards needed
- Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how many of each flower the players want to put in each row (For example: fewer for younger children, more for older). For sturdier playing items, print on card stock.
- Cut the playing cards apart
- Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
- Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot (optional)
- Choose a player to go first
- The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
- Play moves to the person on the right
- Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
- The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!
You can find Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery at these booksellers
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