Review of Little Monarchs

Little Monarchs Little Monarchs
by Jonathan Case; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Ferguson/Holiday    256 pp.  g
4/22    978-0-8234-4260-7    $22.99
Paper ed.  978-0-8234-5139-5    $14.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5281-1    $11.99

Spectacular cartooning, meticulous world-building, and an arresting post-apocalyptic premise form the foundation of this exceptional graphic novel. Set in the summer of 2101, the story follows ten-year-old Elvie and her caretaker, Flora, as they track migrating monarch butterflies south along the western seaboard. Such a journey has become treacherous ever since the 2049 shift in the sun’s radiation levels, leading to the worldwide extinction of nearly all mammals. A small number of humans survived underground, able to inhabit the surface only at night; however, Flora has developed a temporary medication for “sun sickness” using scales from monarch wings. The pair’s quest to reunite Elvie with her parents in Mexico, despite earthquakes, crumbling infrastructure, and double-crossing strangers, leads to a hard-earned, hopeful ending. Case’s ink and watercolor illustrations are lush, dynamic, and impressively consistent from panel to panel, allowing readers to immerse themselves in a believable near-future of solar-powered cars and automated roadside construction machinery. Hand-lettered sound effects are skillfully integrated into nearly every scene, whether a massive tsunami (“WHHHHHHHHH”) or slurps of spaghetti (“SPTTTTTTTHHH”). Practical facts (such as how to properly hang a hammock or survive a snake bite) are generously peppered across the narrative, injecting a continual dose of realism.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Patrick Gall
Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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