A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Red Butterfly is a debut novel written in first-person free verse. It tells the story of Kara, an 11-year-old Chinese girl taken in and fostered by an American woman living in China. Themes of family, loss, and identity are explored as Kara learns the truth about her foster mother's situation. Kara was born with one deformed hand, and although she's self-conscious about it, she doesn't dwell on limitations. A pet bird dies, and an abandoned baby is briefly described. The story has heartbreak and hard times, but Kara's remarkable resilience and determination make her worthy of admiration.
What's the story?
Kara, who's Chinese by birth, was abandoned as an infant and is being raised by an older American woman in the city of Tianjin. Kara doesn't understand why she can't do normal things such as make friends and go to school, but she's pretty sure it's her fault they have to live such a secretive life. When her American sister comes to visit and falls ill, the truth about her family's life is revealed to the authorities. Kara's foster mother is taken away and may be deported. Kara would give anything to get back the life she'd always struggled against. Will she ever see her American family again?
Is it any good?
A.L. Sonnichsen's debut novel RED BUTTERFLY is a stunner. Told in lyrical, rhythmic first-person free verse, it perfectly captures heroine Kara's imperfect understanding of her world and quickly has the reader rooting for her as she struggles for a normal life. Bittersweet themes of loss and longing are deftly balanced with Kara's resilience, determination, and hope. The gorgeous language is a pleasure to read aloud, or you can read along with your big kids and tweens for an unforgettable story about the meaning of family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about adoption. What does it mean, exactly? Were you adopted, or do you know someone who was?
What's free verse? Why do you think the author chose to use it to tell Kara's story?
Do you agree that "family is whoever you decide it should be"? What does Kara mean by that? Why would she want that to be true?
- Author: A. L. Sonnichsen
- Illustrator: Amy June Bates
- Genre: Literary Fiction
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: February 3, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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