Saturday 28 April 2012

The Butterfly

The Butterfly by Roger Vaughan Carr, illustrated by Ann James (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921977664
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is the story of a young girl named Malani and a beautiful butterfly. The story is told in poetic prose, a type that is stumbled upon when the issue is so delicate, that only words of this gentleness and beauty can portray what is needed to tell the tale.

It is a simple and clear example of the Chaos theory; of cause and effect. The slight movement of wings and the effect on everything around it reflects the unpredictability of nature.

The story takes us on a wind started by a wing as breath, and picked up and increased until it becomes a wind storm; ‘from a tiny wingbeat to a tornado’. But it’s the journey that’s magical.

First the vibrant splashes of watercolour against the page indicate the launch of the butterfly and the initial movement of wings. They are followed by the gentle shades of muted colours as it floats into a gentle wind. Then there is the sand and sky, as the wind moves over the sea. The trees and forests with fleeting deer are the increasing pace of the wind. The wind blows on, becoming the enemy of loose robes, lifting sand and blinding eyes.

Crossing the ocean the breeze ‘cooled but it did not calm’ and ‘did not stop to watch the waves’. Its next victims were the tall grasses across the cattle ranges through Peru, and out again ‘across the sea…to Australia’. It forges forth becoming a force as it ’bent and broke huge trees as it roared through the forests’.

As Malani and her father are confronted by this unpredictable act of nature, they are forced to flee. But the child was worried about the butterfly which the ‘wild wind had snatched’. And the butterfly was oblivious to the fact that a beat of its wings had caused the tornado. Nor did it know that ‘within its tiny wings (it) held strength enough to make even the mighty elephant tremble’.

There are many themes in this book and the opportunity to present to children many meaningful lessons on life and the way we look at everything.

The Butterfly was short-listed for the NSW Premier’s Award, 1997, and a Notable Book in the CBCA Awards Picture Books category of the same year. Roger Vaughan Carr is a Melbourne-born children’s author of over 60 books. Ann James the illustrator, was with her partner Ann Haddon, awarded the Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books in 2000. In 2003, Ann also received the Dromkeen Medal.

This is another stunning story for collectors of extraordinary picture books.

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