Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Science Magazine Review of Butterflies in Room 6
Metamorphosis—of ugly ducklings into swans, of jellylike spawn into frogs, of caterpillars into butterflies—always seems miraculous. In this book on insect metamorphosis, Caroline Arnold tells the story of Mrs. Best, a kindergarten teacher who brings a tiny vial of butterfly eggs into her classroom. Her students supply a vivarium with special caterpillar food so they can watch the metamorphosis of the eggs into caterpillars, then pupae, and finally glorious adult painted ladies. The book takes the reader through the course of the children's project, with a series of fine photographs showing the details of each stage in the life cycle of the butterflies. The exciting anticipation of each transformation is summarized in carefully considered text and culminates, of course, with the day the exquisite adults emerge from the pupal case, unfurl, and stiffen their patterned wings. Beautiful close-up images let the readers examine details of the insects' anatomy and learn about butterfly biology.
Finally, a warm day arrives, and it is time to release the butterflies. The dazed insects first walk onto the children's hands before lifting off to disappear over the horizon. Fortunately, some hang around to appreciate the school garden's flowers.
It would have been good for Butterflies in Room 6 to say a little more about why insects are having such a tough time now, as well as more about their role in pollination and human food security. Still, it is an excellent book, sure to generate discussion and flights of imagination among humans who are similarly poised for big changes. By Caroline Ash