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Marigold’s Wings

by Vlasta van Kampen

Vlasta van Kampen’s latest picture book recounts the adventures of a monarch butterfly as she embarks on her species’ annual migration to Mexico. For all her caterpillar life, Marigold has listened with impatient longing to the older butterflies’ tale of their long flight south. Soon the inevitable happens – her skin splits and metamorphosis begins. With her lovely new wings, Marigold begins her journey. Various insect friends help her avoid lurking dangers such as the jaws of a mantis or a sticky spider web. Marigold’s arrival in Mexico is as she imagines, landing gently on a tree already shimmering with a million monarch wings.

Although Marigold’s Wings documents the life cycle of the monarch, it’s not altogether a successful blend of fact and fiction. Marigold’s musings and actions at times detract from the dignity of her metamorphosis and migration. Her instinctive behaviour isn’t fully explained in such sentences as “Marigold felt a strange quivering …. through her whole body to the edge of her wings” and “I have to go – even though I don’t quite know why.” In fact, readers never discover why Marigold does fly south.

If at times the dialogue is formulaic, the expressive watercolour illustrations, which help extend the text, are truly lovely. The care and concern shown to Marigold by her friends models compassionate behaviour, and Marigold’s own enthusiasm for life’s adventures will engage young readers. An afterword by a butterfly expert concludes this pleasant but optional title.