I think the criteria by which non-fiction picture books for children are judged are slightly different from that used on fiction. For one, there isn’t really a ‘story’ — just raw facts. So, the top criterion here has to be that the facts have been researched exhaustively and are 100% accurate and reliable. However, great non-fiction picture books also have some things in common with the best children’s fiction, such as being well written and beautifully illustrated — the way in which the information is presented makes a huge difference in determining whether or not children will want to read it, let alone absorb the content.
Hence, with all that in mind, I’m happy to say that A Butterfly Is Patient ticks all the right boxes.
First of all, unlike the usual anonymous butterflies and caterpillars you see drawn in various picture books, every single species of butterfly and caterpillar that appears in this book is labelled, and its physical features faithfully and gorgeously rendered in watercolour. The fact that the endpapers at the beginning and the end of the book (see below) are not treated as a throwaway, but are instead meticulously covered with illustrations of the caterpillars of different butterflies — many of which are completely unrecognisable in adult form — speaks volumes about the amount of effort put in by the authors to make their book both informative and beautiful.
It’s also hard to find fault with the content, since the text is engaging and manages to cover almost every aspect of butterflies that you can think of, including the life cycle (of course), the largest and tiniest species, the function of the colours and patterns on the wings, seasonal migration, the differences between butterflies and moths, etc.
For such an information-packed book, it’s inevitable that it is slightly wordier than the average picture book, but this only means that it can serve a wider age group: little ones can marvel at the beautiful illustrations while learning some basic facts; older children can read the book on their own and benefit from the detailed explanations.
If you liked this book, check out these equally beautiful and informative titles by the same authors: