Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Velma Gratch and The Way Cool Butterfly


Younger siblings have to constantly worry about the legacies that the older siblings leave behind. Velma Gratch & The Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison demonstrates different ways to excel in school. She is able to learn about butterflies and forgets about the legacies that her older siblings had left behind.

Velma is entering the first grade in the same school were both Freida and Fiona, her sisters, have attended. As Velma goes to each class she is bombarded by all the legacies that her sisters left. Velma feels terrible because she feels like she does not belong: “She wanted to curl into a ball and roll right back into Kindergarten.” Her mother consoles her by stating that she will soon be noticed. Velma takes this the wrong way and purposefully does the opposite of what her sisters were known for, just to be noticed.

Velma behaves so badly that she has to see Principal Crossly. Principle Crossly informers Velma that both her sisters had been noticed for GOOD things. This leads Velma to change her behavior. As she sits in science class (her favorite class) she begins to learn about butterflies and their life cycle from eggs to migration. Velma becomes extremely enthusiastic about butterflies and soon realizes that this is what she will be known for. Velma learns big complicated words that she at times changes the pronunciation ex. Metamorphosis as metal-more-for-this.

Velma visits the butterfly can-serve-the-story (conservatory) and gains a monarch butterfly as a friend. The butterfly does not leave her pointer finger for a very long time. Velma remembers my-gray-son (migration) is soon and takes the butterfly to the park so that it can leave to Mexico. This book not only gives a great introduction to the life cycle of butterflies but also shows young girls they can have fun in science and that they do not need to depend on others to feel good.

Curriculum Connections
Velma Gratch & The Way Cool Butterfly has many lesson for students to learn. A main lesson that was intricately woven into the plot was the life cycle of butterflies. The lesson was not very extensive and teacher could not simply focus on just that topic. However, this book is a great introduction to a lesson about the life cycle of butterflies. For teachers in Virginia this book is great for SOL 2.4a which corresponds with the distinct life cycle stages that butterflies undergo.

Additional Information

  • Way Cool Activities for the Classroom has a variety of activities that relate directly to the book. One of the activities asks the students to show their metamorphosis through showing three different pictures of different stages in their life. This activity not only is fun but allows students to personalize what they are learning in the classroom to what their personal life. The activities are not all necessary but it is worth having as resource in the classroom.
  • The Children’s Butterfly Site is a great website for children to actually see the monarch butterfly. This website allows students an opportunity to learn more about specific butterflies, and it is also very kid friendly. The website also provides various locations that would serve great for a field trip or places that the students could go with their parents.
  • The Butterfly Website has a great lesson that has students create the life cycle. The students would create the eggs and butterfly and all the stages in between. This activity would be great as a review so students can have a visual of the cycle.

Book: Velma Gratch & The Way Cool Butterfly
Alan Madison
Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes
Schwartz & Wade Books
Publication Date:
40 pages

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