Butterfly for a King: Saving Hawai‘i’s Kamehameha Butterflies

Lee & Low. Feb. 2021. 48p. Tr $20.95. ISBN 9781620149713.
Gr 1-4–Conservation, citizen science, and a perennially popular juvenile nonfiction topic come together in this beautifully illustrated title about Hawai‘i’s Kamehameha butterflies. The narrative begins with the formation of the Hawaiian islands and introduces Kamehameha as the king who unified the islands under his leadership. He also had a butterfly named for him. In 2009, six fifth-grade students campaigned to get the Kamehameha butterfly named as Hawai‘i’s official state insect in an effort to raise awareness of the population’s decline. The Pulelehua Project was formed, and its scientists asked Hawaiian citizens to record and submit data of the butterflies in their natural habitats in the stages of their life cycle. This information helped determine where and when to release butterflies from a breeding program into the wild. The text works on two levels to expand its intended audience range. The top of each spread features a short sentence, often with a repetitive clause, that draws a simple throughline in the story. More complex scientific concepts and explanations are included in paragraphs near the bottom of the pages. Roth’s intricate and appealing collages elevate the title, opening strongly on an exploding volcano and making each page turn an anticipatory delight. An afterword, illustrator’s note, acknowledgments, sources, and photograph credits are included.
VERDICT A triumph; highly recommended for all libraries.

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