Teaching Life Science With Children’s Literature: Butterfly Story


Have you ever wondered what the life cycle of a butterfly is?  What are the different stages of that process? Anca Hariton provides a simple and illustrative explanation in the book Butterfly Story.

Hariton’s explanation of the life cycle of the butterfly is done with colorful illustrations and simple wording that younger elementary students would easily understand- particularly second or third graders. The book starts out by setting the scene as springtime.  The main butterfly throughout the story is described as having bright red strips on its dark wings.  Hariton explains that the butterfly lands on a nettle bush and lays one tiny green egg.  The stages are extremely distinct as she continues to explain that the egg contains a tiny caterpillar that hatches out of the egg after about a week.  The caterpillar is described physically in basic terms: “its body is soft and fuzzy, with fourteen stumpy legs.”  The caterpillar is very hungry and eats so much that it outgrows it’s skin four times!  Hariton also explains the dangers of predators and how the caterpillar uses it’s surroundings and physical traits to save itself.  Finally, the caterpillar is full grown and becomes a pupa.

Hariton uses simple illustrations to exemplify this simple transformation.  After two weeks, the pupa hatches and the illustrations and text explain how “something wet and plump” becomes a butterfly!  The physical traits of a butterfly are now explained and shown through drawings as well as how the butterfly attains nutrients.  Finally, this butterfly lays an egg on a nestle bush as well, completing the life cycle of the butterfly.  The most interesting part of this book is that on the last page it explains everything that happened to the butterfly in the book in more scientific ways.  It also explains the type of butterfly that was portrayed throughout this short story.  We learn that the butterfly was a red admiral butterfly and that the transformation of this particular butterfly is the same as all other butterflies as well as moths.  In addition, we learn every more information about the life cycle that the book leaves out.  For example: “the pupa that forms around the caterpillar as it begins its transformation into a butterfly is also called a chrysalis.”  This back page is an excellent resource teachers or parents can use to further explain the life cycle of a butterfly after the simple stages are introduced in the story.

Curriculum Connections 
This book provides a simple explanation of the life cycle of a butterfly.  It can be used to introduce the life cycle of butterflies as well as help explain some simple vocabulary terms associated with the life cycle of butterflies as well as moths.  In Virginia it can be used to explain that some animals (butterflies) undergo distinct stages during their lives (Science Standards of Learning 2.4a).

Additional Resources

  • Here is a lesson plan that can help students learn about the butterfly’s life cycle by observing real caterpillars turn into butterflies.
  • Make a butterfly life cycle mobile using these tips!

Book: Butterfly Story
Anca Hariton
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: 1995
 32 pages

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