CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 41. . . .June 26, 2015
An unnamed young girl moves with her family from the country to the city where she feels out of place. She finds a park called Butterfly Park next to her house and is delighted because butterflies were what she thought she would miss the most upon leaving her home in the country. However, she finds no butterflies in the park when she visits the next day with a plate of cookies. She spies one butterfly in her neighbour’s yard and asks the boy who lives there to help her catch it. Using butterfly nets, other children from the neighbourhood help her to catch many butterflies which, however, fly away from Butterfly Park when they are released there. Following one of the butterflies, the children see flowers and realize that butterflies like flowers. The next day, the girl goes to Butterfly Park again, this time with a bouquet of flowers; again, no butterflies arrive. Her neighbours, including grownups, arrive with gardening tools to plant many flowers which attract butterflies. The girl becomes friends with the boy and feels more comfortable in her new neighbourhood.
The best of Butterfly Park lies with the lush, whimsical, gorgeous illustrations. Detailed cutouts from painted paper and perhaps other materials (some seem translucent) are brought together to create three-dimensional scenes which are then photographed. Use of focussing techniques gives a greater sense of depth and distance as parts of the scenes blur out while the lighting provides interesting shadows. The facial expressions and body language of the human characters are so expressive that the book could hold its own as a wordless picturebook. The young girl, in particular, is depicted as a kind of fairy figure in a red dress made to look like flower petals and with slightly exaggerated body language. Unfortunately, the text is not of such high quality as the artwork. The narrative is evenly paced, but the story feels very artificial. I find a couple of things difficult to accept. For one thing, a girl old enough to visit a park by herself, successfully manipulate a butterfly net (that is, to actually catch butterflies) and enlist the help of several neighbours, who is fresh from the countryside and fond of butterflies, should probably know that butterflies like flowers and not cookies. She should not need the city folk to teach her that “plants need roots to grow.” She might need to be taught how to climb trees by the neighbour boy, but climbing trees as a method of getting higher up would probably not be completely unfamiliar to her. I also feel that the text is “talking down to the reader” in its overly sweet tone, but this may be a matter of mere preference.
Recommended with Reservations.
Sae Yong Kim has an MA in Children’s Literature, and has just graduated from the MLIS program at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, BC.
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