THE LITTLE BUTTERFLY THAT COULD by Ross Burach is just as energetic and entertaining as the prequel, The VERY Impatient Caterpillar. The migrating butterfly we meet is unsure he’ll make the 200 mile journey over the ocean to join his companions and feast on a field of flowers. The whale he encounters along the way is eternally patient and encouraging and kind. At its essence, this picture book is a lesson in perseverance and encouragement that young readers will appreciate. Butterfly and Whale are endearing and funny, and the same readers will laugh with them as they follow along their adventures.
Butterfly starts out the book nervous, and he continues to build up his anxiety for most of the book. Will he find the flowers? Can he fly 200 miles? What if he gets lost? Or eaten? He copes by longing for simpler times, avoiding the situation, and trying to talk himself out of continuing on. None of that works, and Butterfly eventually takes charge of himself and perseveres.
Butterfly’s success is bolstered by his new friend, a whale. Whale boosts Butterfly’s confidence with “one-liners” of encouragement like, “You’ll get there. One mile at a time.” When Butterfly shares how afraid he feels, Whale admits that sometimes he feels afraid too, despite his size. He also shows infinite patience when Butterfly tries to settle in Whale’s stomach. However, in the end, it is Whale’s ability to stay firm and calm in the face of Butterfly’s desperate pleas that help his friend find the self-confidence to try, try again.
Burach’s vivid illustrations mirror his whimsical and poignant text. The bright colors and expressive faces are both funny and endearing. Whale’s kindness and bemusement comes through in his eyes, and Butterfly’s frenzied energy is a whole body experience, from antennae to wing-tips.
Even though THE LITTLE BUTTERFLY THAT COULD is promoted as a companion to Burach’s earlier The VERY Impatient Caterpillar, it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this book. It’s both fun and instructive, silly and comforting. Highly recommended.
And as an aside: Whale is deeply likable, and really Burach could write a follow-up that shares what his own journeys are like. (hint. hint.)