cover image Saving the Butterfly: A Story About Refugees

Saving the Butterfly: A Story About Refugees

Helen Cooper, illus. by Gill Smith. Candlewick, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-20

With “nothing left from before,/ except each other,” two siblings, portrayed with golden skin, journey on a boat in which they are the only ones left: “They could have died./ The bigger one thought they wouldn’t survive,” writes Cooper in plainspoken text. When they are rescued by “kind hands carrying them to land,” they are also taken to a “broken house” in what appears to be a refugee camp. Though the younger brother seems to recover quickly from their unspecified ordeal, remembering little about “the time before,” his sister struggles to move on (“The bigger one couldn’t forget./ She felt she shouldn’t forget”), and retreats into the broken house, “feeling safer there,/ in the real dark,/ hiding from the dark/ in her mind.” Hoping to cheer her, the brother brings home a butterfly in a jar—which, when released, also needs space and time to find its way outside. Smith’s moody mixed-media illustrations smartly use color to convey the story’s tone, moving between shadowy and vividly hued images that mimic the sister’s emotional arc in a hopeful story about emotional processing after trauma. Ages 4–8. (June)