My Favorite New Picture Book: Winged Wonders

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery by Meeg Pincus illustrated by Yas Imamura

This is probably my favorite picture book I've read this year. I love it. For the Cybils non-fiction category I read lots of books about people who did awesome things, made great discoveries or invented irreplaceable improvements to society. Here's the thing though, I hate it when those books get tunnel vision. I hate it when they're like "This one person did a very amazing thing! Alll by themselves!" For reference, my problem with the first book in this post. Also there are probably several other books I won't bother reviewing that had the same deficiency. Well. This book is the vitamin, the antidote!

Winged Wonders is so smart. It doesn't answer the question "where do monarch butterflies go?" It asks the question posed by Homero Aridjis (and quoted in the book's backmatter), "Did the white scientists really 'discover' the wintering sites that people in Southern Mexico know about for centuries?" This book lays it all out: who did what. It represents those people of Southern Mexico. It tells the stories of many men and women and their work to solve this mystery. It gives credit for the discovery of monarch butterfly migration patterns to literally thousands of people. 

Even more than that, though, it inspires. It makes you want to help butterflies, too. It does not throw guilt trips, it inspires wonder and awe for butterflies -- the natural follow through is that after your second grader reads this book on her own, she comes up to you and says, "Hey Mom, can we plant some milkweed?"

And can we talk about the prose for a bit? So poetic! But yet also it lays out the facts. Each two-page spread in the meaty middle section of the book asks "Was it [this person] who [did this], who [did that], who did [a third thing to help]?" The strict structure builds and builds, higher and higher until a triumphant flag is placed on top of the tower: "Yes!" The text layout and design helps with this, too. Rock on. 

Ok but also we have to talk about the pictures. The texture! The layers! The movement! Truly, the sense of movement you get from the butterflies is awesome. Every page has movement, even when no butterflies are pictured. The look of wonder that is on almost every person's face is a subtle influence that connects the people to each other and brings a sense of wonder to us as we read. I don't know if the illustrations were rendered digitally or not, the copyright page didn't say. But they look like they're done in oil pastel and they're just gorgeous. 

Winged Wonders is a complete package. It's got the story, the facts, the pictures, the personal applications, the power to shift your mindset away from individual glory to community accomplishments and collaborative success. I will definitely be adding Winged Wonders to my personal collection.

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