The Fantastic Travels of William and the Monarch Butterfly: Fly, Fly Away on the Wings of a Monarch Butterfly by Christina Steiner is about a young boy named William, a born explorer, who one day meets a talking butterfly named Anka and shrinks down to her size, then flies away with her as she makes her migration down south from North Dakota. Their journey mimics the real migration of the Monarch butterfly, so kids will learn fascinating facts about butterflies as readers follow William and Anka on their series of adventures.
Though the level of the prose is aimed at middle grade readers, the story itself seems more primed for younger readers. Boys of that age especially may think the story as somewhat light and feminine. But the book is subtly feminist as well, as the girl butterfly says to the boy, “I’m in charge now,” even as he’s worried about getting along with a girl. The book also touches on some profound concepts, such as death and renewal, deftly handling these serious issues with a cheerful spirit, so as to not be too maudlin for children. The illustrations are lively and colorful as well.
Overall, Fantastic Travels is a spirited mixture of adventure and science that will appeal to kids 5-10. The migration patterns of the Monarch are truly unbelievable, and Steiner’s book adds a wondrous layer of magic and adventure to their story, teachings kids along the way.