Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: A Story of Immigration, Family, and Finding Home

Bloomsbury. Mar. 2022. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781547606511.
K-Gr 4–In this moving debut, Marwan pares immigration to its elements—family, loss, and acceptance—conveying it in delicate but lively watercolor and line. The true story of her stateless childhood displacement from Kuwait to New Mexico is fully retold in the back matter, which also explains the bull motif (connecting Kuwait to ancient Greece). The narrator (appearing to be about seven) doesn’t understand why they must leave the aunties, the home, and culture they know; only the illustrations suggest the menace of people who “say we don’t belong.” In the new place, the family finds connections: music, the desert, balloons as colorful as the lost butterflies. Zahra is “different,” but belongs. Much of the profound appeal of this book comes from the art. Thin expressive lines define spaces of cool color, with touches of plum and black, against gentle washes floating free (clouds, sea, Zahra’s puffy hair). Every page includes tiny imaginative details to enchant attentive readers: flowers, birds, fish, prayer beads, oud, guitarrón, and much more.
VERDICT This sensitive and beautifully depicted story should touch all young readers, regardless of family background or origin.

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