Friday, August 06, 2010

Butterfly Time

It's been a while since I've posted anything other than my entries for Illustration Friday.  Believe me, it's not for lack of material. I've had several things I've wanted to post, but a lack of time, a bout of prostatitis and summertime chores got in the way.  I'm feeling a little more caught up now, so today I'm going to share a book that I found at a used book store in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

A few months ago, while writing about attending a library discard sale, I posted some images from two books that I found illustrated by Adrienne Adams.  Well, while on a recent road trip to Madison, Wisconsin and a few nearby small towns, I found another book illustrated by Adrienne Adams. This one is called "Butterfly Time," and it was written by Alice E. Goudey. Goudey and Adams had previously collaborated on "The Day We Saw the Sun Come Up," which earned Adams a Caldecott Honor award.  Adrienne Adams was 58 years old when "Butterfly Time" was published in 1964. Her career was at its peak during the fifties and sixties, and this book shows off her talent at its best. The story follows a young boy and girl through the months as they discover the butterflies that appear in spring, summer and fall. The book is very informative, providing all sorts of natural history information on butterflies. Goudey, through her simple story, teaches us the names of the butterflies, what they eat, where they lay their eggs, how they hibernate, and which ones migrate. And Adams' illustrations beautifully illuminate the text.

I love the composition of this image. It is so beautifully balanced with the Butterfly on the right and the simple round yellow ball of the sun on the left. She introduces the children to us by having them approach the reader from a distance, almost like they're stepping out of the white haze of the page background.  The sky is suggested by a hazy patch of blue that spans the gutter of the two page spread. Adams cleverly shows off her botanical drawing skills by having the plants act as a sort of subtle frame for the lower half of the image. It also serves as a sort of trail that leads us visually from the children to the butterfly, in this case a Mourning Cloak.

In this illustration, Adams again uses the botanical elements in the image as a sort of framing device. Here she uses the branches of a blossoming tree to surround the children who look out of a window as they observe the Tiger Swallowtail and Spring Azures that flutter about.  The little blue butterflies almost look as if they are leaves from the tree that have taken flight. The coloring is subtle, with the strongest colors reserved for the Tiger Swallowtail.  The pattern on the girl's dress echoes the branching pattern of the tree and the cool coloring of the boy's clothing adds a visual link to the blues of the little Spring Azure butterflies.

Here Adams has perfectly captured a late June afternoon after a rain storm has left the landscape dotted with puddles. The warm color scheme is the perfect compliment to the yellow Clouded Sulphur butterflies.  Once again Adams has used the round shape of the sun as a sort of counterbalance to the butterfly that appears on the opposite page.

The hot days of summer arrive and with them come the fluffy-topped purple thistles that attract the orange, white and black Painted Lady butterflies. In this simple composition, the beautiful detailing of the thistles almost steals the show from the delicate butterflies.
With the arrival of the cooler days of fall, the butterflies have disappeared, but they linger in the memories of the children. I love the coloration in this image - the wintry blue of the sky, echoed in the boy's clothing, the color of the girl's skirt which is almost the same color as the kitten that is following them. The warm oranges and tans of the girl's outfit are perfect for an image of autumn. The few remaining leaves that cling to the almost bare trees are visual reminders of the fluttering butterflies that have graced the earlier pages of the book.  The book's last image is a chart of the butterflies that were talked about in the book, but this is the last image in which we see the children and I think it's a beautiful image with which to end this blog about this lovely little book.

For those of you interested in obtaining this book, it is out-of-print, but there do seem to be used copies available through Amazon. If you click on the title links in the second paragraph of this post, you will be taken to copies available for sale on Amazon. Or, if you're lucky like I was, you might find a copy in a used bookstore.


  1. Hey Vincent! Thanks for taking the time to share this vintage treasure! What an array of beautiful page layouts- It's hard to say which is my favorite, but the last page example is exquisite, isn't it? So much inspiration! Thanks again! :o)

  2. Heisann!

    I love butterflies and just bought two buddlejas to have more butteflies in the garden ;:OD)

  3. I have a buddleia bush outside my window and it has been attracting lots of butterflies all summer long. I love butterflies as well, besides watching them, I love photographing them. Some of them move so fast that they can be hard to photograph, but if I shoot enough pictures, I usually get at least a couple of good ones.