Handle with Care: Story of a Butterfly Farm

Several exciting new science and nature-related picture books are coming out this spring. Frankly it was hard to decide which to share first, but today let’s start with Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Junior Library Guild Selection) by Loree Griffin Burns and with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz.


Have you ever visited one of the many butterfly exhibits that seem to be popping up all over? The ones that allow you to enter a greenhouse or pavilion full of live butterflies?

Heliconius-sara- sara-longwing

Sara longwing

Isn’t it a magical experience?

Have you ever wondered where all those colorful butterflies come from? Handle with Care answers that question.

It turns out it is an amazing journey. The book starts with a mysterious foil-covered package that arrives at the Butterfly Garden at the Museum of Science in Boston. Inside the box are nestled brightly colored pupae that will soon turn into butterflies for the exhibit. The package came from a butterfly farm far away in Costa Rica.

Author Loree Griffin Burns and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz traveled to the farm to research the story of how butterflies are raised. They found out that captive butterflies are mass raised like any other livestock, except they live in large greenhouses instead of in a pasture. Readers will likely enjoy the amazing photographs of the process and the people who make it happen.

Related activities:

1. Take a trip to a butterfly exhibit

Handle with Care is very likely to inspire a trip to a butterfly exhibit. Here in Arizona we have seasonal butterfly exhibitions at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and at the Tucson Botanical Garden, as well as Butterfly Wonderland year round in Scottsdale.

I hadn’t been to the newly-opened Butterfly Wonderland, so I went this weekend.

Heliconius-hecale-tiger-longwing-111Tiger longwing

It was a photographer’s dream.

paper-kite-Idea-leuconoe-111Paper kite

If you go, encourage your children to bring a camera, if allowed. Photographs are great ways to record the different kinds of butterflies and learn their names. Keep a digital or physical scrapbook to record your trip.

I found out that Butterfly Wonderland gets their butterflies from South America, Africa and all the way from Asia!

If you can’t get to a butterfly exhibit in person, the Florida Museum’s Butterfly Rainforest has a live feeding station webcam, rainforest canopy cam, and a chrysalis cam so you can watch the butterflies feed, fly and emerge in real time.

Before you go on a field trip note:  Even though butterflies are for the most part innocuous, be aware that some children (and adults) may fear or have a phobia about insects, including butterflies.

2. Learn about butterfly life cycles/metamorphosis

Children can explore the butterfly life cycle through the book, with photographs of all the stages and a complete description in the back, plus comparisons to the life cycles of some other insects.


Butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of the plants the caterpillars feed on.


The larval stage of butterflies, or caterpillars,  feed on plants, often only one or a few kinds.


The pupal stage for butterflies are often called chrysalids. The butterfly exhibits receive pupae for butterfly farms.


Some of the pupae are incredibly beautiful.


Many butterfly exhibits have an area where you can observe the adult butterflies emerge from the pupae.

See a related post about butterfly science

3. Butterfly behaviors

Butterfly exhibits and gardens are wonderful places to observe butterfly behaviors, such as basking, feeding, perching, puddling, and patrolling.


This postman butterfly is basking on a part of a sidewalk warmed by the sun. If it is cool out, it is not uncommon to see butterflies basking, particularly first thing in the morning.

at-top Cethosia biblis perakana (male)Butterfly exhibits offer many opportunities to watch butterflies feeding on various sweet solutions. This is a colorful butterfly feeder.


If you look closely, you may be able to see a butterfly using its proboscis to drink nectar from a flower.


Sometimes the butterflies appear to rest on plants, but often it is their way to “see and be seen,” especially by rivals and potential mates. This behavior is called perching.


It would be easy to miss this tiny clearwing butterfly. It is puddling on a leaf by inserting its proboscis into a wet clump of dirt. Butterflies, particularly males, are thought to take up important minerals and nutrients this way. The behavior is called puddling because it is often observed around damp patches or puddles on the ground.

Male butterflies may actively fly around looking for mates or even guard territories against rival males. Patrolling isn’t as easy to document via photographs, so here is an enchanting video showing an admiral butterfly patrolling. (Note: there is a pop-up ad.)


Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Junior Library Guild Selection) is a lovely book for youngsters that will surely inspire a trip to a butterfly exhibit. You will want to use it to accompany units on life cycles, farming, and insects, as well. Read it and watch children’s imaginations take flight!

Age Range: 6 – 10
Series: Junior Library Guild Selection (Millbrook Press)
Library Binding: 32 pages
Publisher: Millbrook Pr Trade (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0761393420
ISBN-13: 978-0761393429

Disclosures: The book was provided electronically for review via NetGalley. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

If you are interested in children’s nonfiction, you might want to visit the Nonfiction Monday blog and see what other new books bloggers have found.



  1. Sue Heavenrich

    What a cool book! and what a dynamic author/photographer duo. This book looks like a treasure.

  2. Roberta


    I think it would be right up your alley.

  3. Rosi

    Thanks for telling me about this beautiful book. I will definitely check it out.

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