ALREADY A BUTTERFLY by Julia Alvarez and Illustrated by Raúl Colón is a poignant reminder to (almost literally) stop and smell the roses. Mari is a beautiful butterfly who is always busy, anxious, and productive, but she can’t say she’s happy. Told by her parents, also busy butterflies with good intentions, to “trust her instincts” to find happiness, she continues keeping herself so busy that each flower is a blur.
It is only when Mari meets Bud, a flower bud still waiting to blossom, that she is reminded of a time in her chrysalis that her whole existence focused on becoming who she was meant to be. Bud reminds her that she was “following her instincts” and not thinking about what she “ought” to do or “must complete.”
Bud guides Mari through a meditation that reminds her of where she came from and what she’s already accomplished and who she is and was meant to be. “Breathing in, you are a butterfly. Breathing out, you feel happy.” Mari’s senses allow her to notice the sounds, sights, and smells around her, and she finally feels like the beautiful butterfly she’s always been. Bud, as you can imagine, becomes a beautiful flower and Mari takes a piece of him – in the form of pollen – with her as thanks.
What works in this story is its matter-of-fact and simple treatment of meditation, or mindfulness, as well as the non-judgmental description of Mari’s self-imposed pressure to be busy. Bud is friendly but not pushy, and Mari’s relief at being “in the moment” is palpable. The beautiful, softly elegant illustrations help convey a sense of calm and comfort throughout.
The author’s note, “Growing Your Own Wings,” explains the origins of the picture book and relates the challenges facing the girls in the Dominican Republic involved in the Mariposa DR Foundation to Alvarez’s granddaughters and their packed schedules surrounded by social media and concerns about global issues like the environment. The note continues with encouragement to take the time to meditate when thoughts and worries crowd your thoughts to “make room inside yourself for your wings to grow.”
A lovely picture book and meditation guide.
review by Kristin Wald