There were eight of us at The Red Balloon. Karen Clark, author of Sweet Moon Baby, joined our group for the first time. She kindly found her book on the shelf and showed it to us.
We liked The Fault in Our Stars and A Butterfly Is Patient very much and thought of several ways the books could be connected.
- “I believe the universe wants to be noticed….the universe enjoys its elegance being observed.” We felt we were observing and appreciating the beauty and elegance of the universe in the lovely illustrations of Sylvia Long.
- Hazel came out of her cocoon, much like a butterfly.
- Augustus led a short and beautiful life.
- Cancer patients are patient with their disease.
One of our members is a cancer survivor, and liked The Fault in Our Stars for a number of reasons, one of which was that while she had cancer, she felt much like Hazel in her desire to cocoon, just be at home, not relate to the world. Perhaps the medical references were not always accurate, but we felt Green’s portrayal of the suffering seemed authentic, especially the loss of bodily sovereignty.
Gus had the strongest voice, even though he wasn’t the narrator. (Oh, I’m grand.” Augustus Waters smiled with a corner of his mouth. “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.”) All the voices were a little mature, but these were bright and witty kids. We felt they were real, and we were happy to see them participate in life like normal teenagers, despite the inconveniences of their disease.
We liked that Hazel and Gus had both parents, and we were particularly struck by Hazel’s concern for her parents’ welfare. She feels she’s a grenade and her parents will be the casualty her inevitable early death, possibly divorcing as many parents do after the death of a child. She watches T.V. with her parents, and she is truly delighted to learn that her mother is pursuing a M.S.W. and will have a life after Hazel is gone.
Metaphorically, Peter Van Houten is a roadblock preventing Hazel and Gus from learning what happens after the end of his novel, and cancer is a roadblock preventing Hazel and Gus from leading normal lives. He, or rather, his book, is also a device the author uses to bring Hazel and Gus together.
What does happen to characters after the end of the story? John Green, in an interview, said that nothing happens. It’s a work of fiction. The book ends. What happens to us after death? Gus believed Something with a capital S happens, and Hazel believed Gus was Somewhere with a capital S.
Besides A Butterfly Is Patient, we looked at other books illustrated by Sylvia Long. We discussed collaboration between the author and illustrator and wondered if Aston at least offered suggestions to Long about the placement of illustrations.
We so appreciated that this picture book was a circle that began with the great purple hairstreak and ended with it. We would have liked an author’s note about the habitat of each butterfly.
Suggestions for how to use this book:
- Read the cursive writing and ask students what they already know, or ask them to research to fill in the other text.
- Match caterpillar with butterflies on the end papers. All can be matched, but they are not in the same locations in the front and the back.
- This would be a good book to read one-on-one though we’ve seen it read to a class studying butterflies.
We had Dutch apple pie for our treat, and Mary and Stacy won The Red Balloon drawing for the two books for next month’s Chapter and Verse.