Little Monarchs

Margaret Ferguson/­Holiday House/. Apr. 2022. 256p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780823442607.
Gr 6 Up–It’s 2101, and a solar apocalypse has killed most of humanity; those who survive must stay underground to avoid getting sick from sun exposure. Elvie, an endlessly curious Black preteen, lives with her guardian Flora, a scientist who has found a way to turn monarch butterfly scales into an antidote to sun sickness. During the day, Elvie and Flora forage for food and supplies, study monarch medicine, and avoid other humans, who are either rivals or outright enemies. Hoping to develop a vaccine, Elvie’s scientist parents have traveled to Mexico to gather materials from the monarchs that flock there at the end of their migration. They haven’t returned, but Elvie believes they are still alive, so she and Flora set off to Mexico to find them, relying on a dwindling supply of the antidote to keep them safe. Case’s artwork showcases the strong relationship between Flora and Elvie through detailed body language and expressions, and each has a unique voice. Excerpts from Elvie’s naturalist journal bookend important discoveries the pair make on their journey and show her to be quick-witted, scientifically-minded, and intuitive. Vibrant colors spread from page to page, mirroring the monarch butterfly’s sunset orange hues. Each panel is filled with detailed drawings and text, which at times overwhelm the page. However, this graphic novel packs a punch, expertly balancing science fiction with the looming environmental crisis, highlighting the delicate balance of every aspect of our planet’s relationship with the sun and our ecosystem.
VERDICT Meticulously researched biology and environmental science make this a unique addition to any library serving teens.

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