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New book follows man on a monarch mission

Daddy says the weeds have to go.

Every weekend, he plucks them from your yard, pulls them up from their roots and tosses them in a pile. If they’re not grass, out they go. But does he know that some weeds can become butterflies? In “Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs” by Linda Vander Heyden, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen, you’ll see how.

Mr. McGinty loved to watch butterflies play. He loved to watch them eat and fly around the milkweed in his neighborhood. Milkweed, he explained to his dog Sophie, is “the only plant a monarch uses to lay its eggs.”

Monarchs made Mr. McGinty very happy. But his happiness quickly turned around the day he discovered that someone had mowed down all the milkweed near his house. That almost made Mr. McGinty cry. The monarch caterpillars would die without their milkweed! Some of them were already looking for something to eat.

Mr. McGinty and Sophie ran home as fast as they could. There was no time to waste, and he had a plan. He gathered old jars and glasses, piled them on a squeaky red wagon and hurried to the park. Gently, he picked up each caterpillar, put them all in the jars and carefully took them home.

That evening, Mr. McGinty placed the caterpillars in aquariums and covered them with milkweed and a screen for their protection. He watched them eat, and he was happy again – until he suddenly realized he couldn’t take care of all those caterpillars by himself. He’d have to gather milkweed for them. He’d have to keep watch over them while they were growing and when they became chrysalises. Then, in the spring, he’d have to release them all.

How was he going to do that?

And then, Mr. McGinty got an idea — a very wonderful, delicious idea that involved the kids in a nearby school. But he couldn’t give away all his caterpillars, of course, and when spring came, Mr. McGinty was very happy again.

Butterflies will do that, you know. And if they make your child smile, too, then “Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs” is a great book to have.

Kids who hold a fascination with caterpillars and bugs will find a kindred spirit in Heyden’s title character. McGinty is smart and definitely resourceful but also a little childlike in his need for the butterflies’ well-being and his zeal to save the caterpillars at any cost. Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to this tale and a bonus parents will like: Vanden Heyden includes a two-page information section on monarchs, their migration and the plants they need to live, which serves as a call to action for young readers ages 6 to 10.

It’s also hard not to think spring with Ewen’s illustrations, and after hearing this tale, it’ll be hard for your child not to watch out for monarchs. If you’re looking for a nice bedtime story, a good cuddle-up read-aloud or a fun class activity, “Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs” is the book to pluck.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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