Butterflies for Grandpa Joe by Nicola Davies illustrated by Mike Byrne

This gentle story, by Nicola Davies and illustrated throughout by Mike Byrne, conveys how love across the generations and the healing power of nature can soothe the heartache of grief and give hope for the future. This lovely book deserves a place in every primary school library and classroom.

Grandpa Joe has always loved butterflies and for a long time has photographed these beautiful creatures as they flutter around his garden. But he doesn’t do this anymore. Since Ben’s granny died Grandpa Joe has changed. He no longer wants to go outside and enjoy the lovely garden he shared with his wife. He doesn’t talk or smile anymore. He sits in front of the television lost in his thoughts and his memories. Ben fears that Grandpa Joe is slowly slipping away and he is desperate not to lose him too. Perhaps if Ben could find a way to bring the butterflies to his Grandpa the old man would come back to life and to his family.

This is a beautiful story. Nicola Davies has captured that special bond across the generations that so frequently exists between grandparents and their grandchildren. Ben loves his grandpa and Grandpa Joe loves Ben too but grief has left the old man unable to display this love anymore. I admired Ben’s determination to try to help. Nicola Davies also conveys to the reader the sadness of bereavement and how this can sometimes manifest itself in a solitary quietness and depression rather than floods of tears. Both her text and the illustrations by Mike Byrne capture that sense of something lost from a home when someone has died, almost as though the house and garden miss the person too.

As this book is aimed at an audience of about 8 years plus there is a lovely resolution to the story and the happy ending we would all hope for. The story contains threads that come together well and the family rift and its resolution show how conversation, understanding and compromise can help families sort out their differences which is a positive message for young readers too.

As one would expect from Nicola Davies, a zoologist whose books on nature are so popular, the story of the life cycle of the butterflies and the descriptions of their development and Ben’s care of them are excellent. I particularly liked the way in which the continuity of nature worked in parallel with the gradual reawakening of Grandpa Joe. It was beautifully done. The other family relationships, particularly that of Ben and his little sisters are realistic and show understanding and empathy.

This lovely book works on many levels and I would highly recommend it for primary school libraries and classrooms. As with all books published by Barrington Stoke this title is presented in a super readable style making it accessible to a wide range of readers but is also a great quick read for more confident readers.

Butterflies for Grandpa Joe is available at all good bookshops or online
Thank you to Kirstin Lamb from Barrington Stoke for providing my free copy for review.

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