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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.



At one of my other blogs I have been participating in a book review round up for children's nonfiction for a number of years called Nonfiction Monday. The organizer, Anastasia Suen, has recently changed the format so now all the reviews are posted Mondays on the new Nonfiction Monday blog. Today I thought I would participate here at Growing with Science with a review of a picture book about Pluto. If you are interested in children's nonfiction, you might want to go visit the blog and see what interesting books other bloggers have found.


With the the change in 2006 from having nine planets in the solar system to only eight, children may be wondering what happened to Pluto. Why isn't it a planet any longer?  Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery by Margaret Weitekamp, with David DeVorkin, and illustrated by Diane Kidd uses a whimsical approach to explain the discovery of Pluto, its history and how scientific classifications change as we uncover more information about the world around us.


The premise is that Pluto has a secret, which is that it isn’t a planet but part of a different phenomenon altogether. The cartoon illustrations of a smiling Pluto reveal right away that this isn't going to be a deeply serious nonfiction book. The lighthearted tone of the text confirms that this is meant to be a fun, entertaining look at what happened. That doesn't mean that the information is lightweight, however, because the book is published in association with Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum where the authors and illustrator work. It is well written and has a good amount of depth.

What did happen to Pluto? In a nutshell, astronomers found a group of objects that also orbit around the sun near Pluto. Together they form what is called the Kuiper belt. Many of these newly discovered objects are nearly as large as Pluto, and one, Eris, was actually thought to be larger than Pluto. Eris would have been the 10th planet in the solar system, except in 2006 astronomers sat down and decided to set a strict definition of what a planet should be. As a group they decided that a planet has to orbit the sun, have a rounded shape, and also to have a clear orbit of its own. Pluto and the other members of the Kuiper belt fail the last criterion. Therefore, they are now called "dwarf planets." Because they are for the most part orbiting beyond Neptune, they are also called "trans-Neptunian objects." The only dwarf planet the orbits nearer to the Sun than Neptune is Ceres, which is found in the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars.


This illustration (from NASA) shows some of the best known objects in the Kuiper Belt in comparison to Earth. It was labeled before the objects got their official names, which are:

Top row (left to right): Eris and its moon, Dysnomia (not "Xena"); Pluto and Charon; and Makemake.

Bottom row (left to right): Haumea and its moons; and Kuiper Belt Objects Sedna and Quaoar.

Back to the book, Pluto's Secret is a lively introduction to the the history of Pluto and how science works. It definitely would be a useful resource for a unit on the solar system or to accompany a trip to an air and space museum.

Age Range: 5 - 9 years
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (March 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1419704230
ISBN-13: 978-1419704239

Disclosure: 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.



This week for Meet A Scientist Monday let's take a look at a book that introduces us to ten women scientists.

Super Women in Science by Kelly Di Domenico contains the biographies of women scientists who made outstanding contributions to their fields of study. Starting with the tragic story of Hypatia, born in the year 355, through the first African-American woman in space, Mae Jemison, this book briefly summarizes the lives of women in the light of the times in which they lived. Each chapter summarizes the life of a single woman, listed in chronological order.super-women-in-science

Some of the women, like Rachel Carson, are household names. In other cases the author has chosen a less well-known scientist. For example, instead of a biography of primatologist Jane Goodall, Di Domenico introduces us to Birute Galdikas, a woman who studies orangutans in a similar ground-breaking way that Goodall studies chimpanzees. It is fun to learn about someone new.

Most of the women had to struggle against bias to continue working in science. For example, Maria Goeppert-Mayer won the Nobel Prize in 1963 for physics, but had to work as a volunteer because no university would hire her early in her career. Hearing the same setbacks due to gender bias again and again is a bit disheartening, but it does reflect the realities of the times.

Part of the high-quality Women's Hall of Fame Series, this particular volume does have a few minor flaws. For example, in the second chapter on fossil-hunter Mary Anning, some of the scientific names are not properly capitalized. The list of sources in the back, however, are extremely helpful for children who get excited about the life of one of these women and want to find out more.

Super Women in Science is likely to be inspiring not only children interested in science, but also those interested in history. Although listed as a middle grade book, I think older children will also find it useful.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 102 pages
Publisher: Second Story Press (January 1, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1896764665
ISBN-13: 978-1896764665


This post was prepared for Nonfiction Monday, a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. (I usually participate in this carnival at my Wrapped in Foil blog.) For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen's Nonfiction Monday page. This week's carnival is at Bookish Blather.

Thanks to the publisher for providing this older book for review.