I remember one of the first times I ever learned about the Mexican forest where monarch butterflies go to spend the winter months, and I am just as in awe of the beauty of that scene now as I was then. With climate change threatening habitats around the world, this unique oasis is likewise in danger, not to mention the myriad lives it sustains. This lovely book introduces readers to Solimar, a soon-to-be official princess who is granted the important role of protecting the migrating monarch butterflies. Her bravery and independence blends with the beauty of the butterflies to create a story that is especially enjoyable for young readers with a taste for fantasy adventures. Please see my full review below.
How important are rules and tradition when one’s desires do not necessarily align with them? Fourteen-year-old Solimar is the daughter of the king and queen, although her older brother is the official successor to the throne. When the annual migration of the monarch butterflies begins, Solimar ventures a little too far, finding herself unexpectedly granted with the important role of caring for the weaker butterflies that need a little more support before they can join their companions. In addition to this responsibility, Solimar becomes the only person able to protect her kingdom from the nefarious intentions of another ruler, and she embarks on the adventure of a lifetime to restore balance to the world she loves so much.
Well-written and engaging, this story blends fantasy with reality while balancing one girl’s quest to better her kingdom with the need to protect monarch butterflies. Intriguing characters support Solimar along the way, and they are always available to lend an ear or a helping hand. Though there is some conflict with the neighboring kingdom, the overall struggle is found within Solimar’s journey to become an independent leader even when women are given less of a voice than men in her kingdom. Vivid descriptions bring Solimar’s experience to life, making it easy for readers to picture what is taking place in each scene. Even when Spanish vocabulary is used, it is defined in English in the surrounding text, making the presentation accessible to readers no matter their own Spanish-language fluency.
This charming story is one that showcases the strength of one independent young woman alongside the more restrictive nature of the kingdom in which she was raised. The overall narrative flows smoothly, with Solimar focusing on figuring out where to go and how to help rather than facing internal moral struggles. As Solimar is fourteen, this book will speak to older middle grade readers in plot while the presentation is accessible to those who prefer a streamlined narrative without many surprises. Succinct and heartwarming, this story is a good fit for middle grade readers who appreciate fantasy adventures in concise packages.
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