A black rain that becomes a mysterious orange cloud over Lake Erie is the beginning for of a magical encounter with monarch butterflies for Jilly, her dog, Fudge, and her mother.
Veteran nature-writer Markle, who has written recently of places as disparate as Nova Scotia, Australia and China, here offers a gentle free-verse narrative based on a never-to-be-forgotten experience from her own Ohio childhood. The slow pace of her account is appropriate: “When you’re making a memory, / you want it to last as long as possible.” At first, Jilly is worried, hesitant about following the cloud into the woods with her mother, wanting to turn back. Wu’s hazy pastel paintings on full-bleed double-page spreads emphasize the mystery, the woodland dimness and puzzling spots of orange they see. When the monarchs explode from the tree where they were resting and Jilly realizes what they are, they suddenly become clear to the reader as well. What looks dark and indistinct close-up shows surprisingly well at a distance; the text reads aloud smoothly, suiting this especially well for use with a group. Author’s notes, a map showing monarch migration and a list of books and websites for further exploration add helpful information.Even collections with many monarch titles will want to add this one for its masterful evocation of a child’s sense of wonder at the natural world. (Picture book. 4-8)