cover image Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly

Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly

Alan Madison, , illus. by Kevin Hawkes. . Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83597-1

At the center of Madison’s (The Littlest Grape Stomper ) picture book is first-grader Velma Gratch; despite her round eyeglasses and bushy red pigtails, she worries that she isn’t as memorable as her well-known older siblings—until she discovers butterflies. “She adored the ones with colorful names: brown elfin, frosted flasher, sleepy orange. And the ones with funny names: comma, question mark, American snout.” During a school trip to a butterfly conservatory, which Velma aptly calls a “can-serve-the-story” in a humorous if too-cute Junie B.-esque malapropism, the otherwise ordinary story veers abruptly into fantasy. A monarch perches on Velma’s finger and won’t let go (she attends ballet class with it on her finger and sleeps with her butterfly hand on a pillow), finally giving her the distinction she craves. Hawkes’s (Library Lion ) paintings ably convey the colorful differences between the types of butterflies. His work shines most brightly, perhaps, on his witty endpapers: the opening papers show caterpillars (including an “orange-tipped Gratch”); the papers at the end display butterflies (Velma is now a “Small Gratchis”), underscoring the character’s own metamorphosis. Both adults and emerging conservationists should appreciate this leisurely story about finding one’s bliss. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)