Friday, March 27, 2015

RED BUTTERFLY by A.L. Sonnichsen, illus. by Amy June Bates

Hello, and Happy last Poetry Friday before National Poetry Month! (gasp! how did this happen?!) Please visit Jone at Check it Out for Roundup. (Fun fact: Jone has the honor of providing the first line of our 2015 Progressive Poem! Woohoo!)

I am still recovering from an amazing 10 days in Austria, Germany & Switzerland, but I have GOT to tell you about RED BUTTERFLY by A.L. Sonnichsen.

I love this book. LOVE it. It moved me deeply. Please, please do yourself a favor and seek this one out. I am in love with Kara and her story.

From the jacketflap:

"Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an elderly American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. mama tells Kara to be content with what she has... but what if Kara secretly wants more? Told in lyrical, moving verse, Kara's story is one of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights."

A big source of conflict and growth for Kara is when her adult-sister Jody comes to visit:


In the daylight
she sleeps in my bed,
her mouth open,

At night,
when she should be asleep,
she's wide-awake
to Mama,
who nods,
but collects
each Jody-word
like it's a
fleck of gold.
And oh, what a complex, heartbreaking character Mama is!


Mama is
a fragile moth
of night and shadow.

If I touch her
she might

If I tell her
what the fat landlord said
she might
on pale wings
out the window
to Montana
     and forget me.
Kara also discovers words her mother wrote for her in the pages of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which is Kara's favorite book:

There is no
Secret to Happiness
Except learning to be Content
And wearing the badge that says
This is My Unique Life
and no one else
can live it.

I'm not going to reveal all that happens to Kara later in the book, but I will share this short excerpt from the book's Epilogue:

Now my feet can't hold still.
I run
               and hurl myself into Mama's
               waiting arms.

And now I bid you Zaijian!

(excerpt from poem "Stairwell")

     she says.

     It is a hopeful
thing to say.
          "Zaijan" means "good-bye,"
but also "see you later."


  1. I will order this from the library. Thank you,Irene!

  2. Hi, Irene. I've been wanting to read this debut since we featured it at the Sweet 16s website. Thanks for your post. (There's an interview with the author here:

  3. I will read this too. It was such a joy to hear you read these poems. You read so beautifully. Thank you for the recommendation, on this Poetry Friday eve of April! :)

  4. This sounds wonderful! Thanks for the recommendation, Irene.

  5. I've just placed a hold at my library. Sounds like a compelling story told beautifully. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  6. Sounds like a great one! I've got it reserved at the library!

  7. I've seen it reviewed once before, Irene, know it must be good. I have been having more students read verse novels that ever-will find this for the classroom. Thanks! Love "but collects
    each Jody-word
    like it's a
    fleck of gold."

  8. I think this is waiting for me at the library. It sounds wonderful.

  9. This does sound wonderful (& heartwrenching, too). Will seek it out. Love that cover!


Your thoughts?