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VELMA GRATCH AND THE WAY COOL BUTTERFLY

Author: Alan Madison

Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes

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Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books,a Divison of Random House Children's Books, ©2007

Material: hard cover

Summary: Remember first grade? Does your teacher remember you? Everyone remembers Frieda and Fiona, the older Gratch sisters, but no one notices Velma. They can't even remember her name! Velma is very sad and doesn't think she belongs in first grade. She isn't a good singer (like Frieda) or good at sports (like Fiona). She likes science, and she LOVES butterflies. When Mr. Plexipuss takes the class to the Butterfly Conservatory, Velma is all aflutter. When a monarch butterfly befriends Velma, what happens next is just ... way cool. This picture book offers lessons in personal discovery and being true to yourself.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, read aloud book, early reader, remedial reader

Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 7 to 10

Interest Level: 4 to 10

Age of Child: Started reading with 6½-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter loves this book. We've been reading it every day for more than a week! She listens very closely and stares at the illustrations as we read, never interrupting (which is rare).

Adult Reader Reaction: This is a fun story, and I love that it has several layers. Although the story focuses largely on Velma, the author has thoughtfully weaved in other themes: the individuality and the supportive dynamic of the Gratch sisters; facts about butterflies; and a positive "model" about girls liking science (and "bugs"). The only piece that didn't set well was the visit to the principal's office. I understood the first one, as it helped set up the story. But going to the principal's office because of a butterfly on her finger is a little "out there."

Pros: Young elementary-aged children will enjoy this story about a young girl and her butterflies. For those who want books that encourage science and discovery for girls, this is a nice read.

Cons: See the comment about the visits to the principal's office. Given the understanding and encouraging tone set by the rest of the story, Velma's visits (and the fear of a third one just by the mere mention of her name) were a little heavy-handed.

Borrow or Buy: Buy! Especially if you have a young daughter with older sisters.

If You Liked This Book, Try: DENISE'S MOLD   CATERPILLAR SPRING, BUTTERFLY SUMMER   TAKE A BACKYARD BIRD WALK (Talk a Walk Book Series)

Educational Themes: The author very effectively weaves in great facts about butterflies to add a non-fiction dimension to the story. The pace of events make it easy to pause and explore Velma's feelings, too. Ask about your child's interests. This is a book to read outside, so that when you close the cover, you can go explore the garden. The wonderful illustrations on the endpapers make it an instant field guide.

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, life lessons, nature, science

Date(s) Reviewed: April 2008

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