The Annual Monarch Migration Has Begun

 As a reporter many years ago, I used to write about the annual migration of the monarch butterfly from Canada over Lake Erie around mid-September to mid-October.  They fly 2,000 to 3,000 miles to an overwintering area in Mexico’s Sierra Madre.  I was fortunate to visit a family in Lake County who observed the massive one-day migration of thousands of monarch butterflies to their northeastern farm.  The butterflies  landed on the trees of their farm the same day each year for over 40 years.  The butterflies clustered so closely together that they looked like Christmas tree ornaments as they clung for one night to the leaves, branches and to each other.  It was a spectacular sight!  So in honor of these beautiful creatures of nature, I share with you Bruce Coville’s picture book for children.

The Prince of Butterflies, is written by Bruce Coville and illustrated by John Clapp for kids of all ages.  It is a very beautiful story complimented by its wistful and colorful illustrations.  I happily discovered  Coville’s work of fiction during the annual Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in August.  Because of my interest in the monarch migration, I knew his book belonged to me.

One morning, 11-year-old John Farrington, walked out his front door to a great surprise.  Monarch butterflies covered the side of his home like a carpet, clusters decorated the porch railing, lawn chairs, the family car and his yard.  It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.   Afraid of scaring the butterflies, he walked into the yard and quietly sat on the ground.  Slowly, butterflies landed upon his foot, his arm and his shoulder.  John sensed something unusual happening.  Suddenly he heard the fluttering voices of thousands of butterflies crying out “help.”   Closing his eyes he wondered “how and why?”  As the butterflies came to him, he saw the image of a meadow.  They whispered “We’ve lost the path home.”

John realized that the meadows that the butterflies used to feed and rest upon, were gone.  In the place of the green fields was a new shopping mall.  He realized the butterflies needed a new resting place.  He remembered a meadow that had been untouched by bulldozers.  The butterflies want to be taken there.  Befuddled, John wonders”how?”  And, in that instant something miraculous happened to John.  He is transformed into a butterfly and his life is altered for ever.

Coville does an outstanding job of combining fiction with ecology.  I believe a major reason I like his book so much, is that I have often wondered about the changing habitat and how it may impact the monarch migration.  I’ve wondered if the farm I visited years ago is still there with its abundant fields and trees to welcome these weary travelers.   There is about a 60-mile stretch a long Lake Erie where they rest after their journey over the lake.   In northeast Ohio, the butterflies can be observed at Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve in Mentor.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

10 thoughts on “The Annual Monarch Migration Has Begun

  1. Pat, this sounds like an enchanting and empathetic account of this beautiful migration and its modern hazards. I would love to see the illustrations. With your previous interest, I can imagine that this book almost leapt off the SCBWI table into your hands! I am interested by his choice of an 11 year old protagonist for a picture book, and your comment that this is a book for children of all ages.

    I wish you could have the opportunity to be present at this one day event, again!


    • Yes, I knew I would purchase this book when I discovered it. The book is enchanting for many reasons, it’s a story of collaborating ecology and fantasy. And, I was surprised by the boy’s age in the book — it was written in 2002. The butterflies return for the next seven years and John eagerly looks forward to their annual arrival. When he turns 18 and goes to college, they don’t stop any more. He studies butterflies in college. Then one day he is old and something occurs. Thus the reason I felt it was a book for all ages.

      Yes, I would like to see the mass migration one more time. The wife hapened to work as a naturalist. So the family, along with othes were up all night tagging the butterfilies. It was only around the late 60s that the wintering place was discovered in Mexico. As far as I know, it has remained a secret.


  2. A lovely interesting post Pat. I grew up loving monach butterflies and having swan plants in Mum’s garden and watching them hatch and stretch their wings. But I had no idea they mirgrate in masses like that. It would be a beautiful sight to see. Thankyou for this.


    • Thank you Diane. I’m glad you enjoyed it. There are two migrations, one around July, and the last one in Sept.-Oct. They are on their flight from Canada now and in Ohio we can see them in the air in small groups along the roads and in our backyards. But there is this big final one-day massive migration where the remaining fly from Canada over the lake and head south. I only viisted one farm where they rested. You would like Coville’s work of fiction. He has a wonderful imagination.


  3. Oh what a wonderful post! I, too, bought this book at SCBWI, but haven’t yet read it. I will do so posthaste! I also appreciated so much your preamble about your own experience of the Monarchs’ migration.

    One of my cousins (Bev’s sister) raised Monarchs on her apartment balcony one year, having noticed that many of the eggs were prey for various predators. She collected milkweed for them, and watched them change from egg to caterpillar and eventually to butterfly. With the imaginative literary bent that is such a part of that branch of the family, she named them after great queens of the past. I hope that Boudicae and the rest had a safe flight to the south land. (She told her story in a series of letters that was read on one of Peter Gzowski’s CBC radio programs back in the 1990s.)


    • Beth, thank you for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the post — the timing was right. I think you’ll enjoy Coville’s take on the butteflies — especially the ending. And, thank you for sharing the story about your cousin raising Monarchs. There are many wonderful books about raising Monarchs and I almost mentioned them at the end. But your sharing is far more interesting. I see the literary bent in your family, I’m sure her stories were entertaining if they made the CBC radio. They are so regal. I thought about writing a picture book about the monarchs, because I had done so much research and experienced the migration first hand, But, there were so many books written, that I set my idea aside. Again, thank you for your lovely comments.


  4. A couple of small colonies of Monarchs have a tenuous hold where we live in Spain and I get quite excited every time I see one! I have the book ‘Four Wings and a Prayer’, which I’m sure you know is an adult account of a journey following an annual Monarch migration and really enjoyed it. What is it about these butterflies that captures everyone’s hearts and imagination I wonder? I will be buying this book for my granddaughter, she’s only 6 but already an avid reader with an advanced reading age and a wonderful imagination; I might just have to read it myself first though. Theresa


    • Theresa,
      Thank you so much for stopping. I’m so sorry I haven’t responded. My computer has been down for nearly a week and I just got it back. I get excited when I see the Monarchs. I haven’t read “Four Wings and Prayer.” Sounds like I should. I know why Monarchs are loved so much here, because we are part of the migration path. That’s why I was delighted to find a book by a favorite children’s author on monarchs. It is is quite different. Wow — I peeked at your nature blog and found it interesting. Will comment soon.



  5. Pingback: Monarch Butterfly Season Is Starting « Natural History Wanderings

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