Review of The Making of Butterflies

The Making of ButterfliesThe Making of Butterflies
by Zora Neale Hurston; adapted by Ibram X. Kendi; illus. by Kah Yangni
Preschool    Amistad/HarperCollins    24 pp.
3/23    9780063111585    $9.99

In this board-book adaptation of a pourquoi story chronicled in Hurston’s 1935 anthology Mules and Men, Kendi and Yangni collaborate to introduce young children to the African American folklore tradition and to Hurston’s importance within that tradition. “The Creator wuz all finished and thru makin’ de world,” but then notices that the world looks too bare. So they add “trees and grass and flowers and plants”; when the flowers complain about feeling lonesome, the Creator goes “’round clippin’ li’l pieces offa everything,” thereby creating butterflies. Yangni’s vibrant mixed-media illustrations span a range of settings—rural and urban, historical and current—accompanied by brilliantly colored butterflies throughout. “Butterflies were made to keep de flowers company” is the satisfying resolution. Kendi (who previously adapted a Hurston short story in Magnolia Flower, rev. 11/22) preserves Hurston’s use of Black English, and his closing note provides rich historical context about both Ebonics and the importance of Hurston’s work as a folklorist.

From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kim Parker

Dr. Kim Parker is Director of the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University, and co-chair of the Books for Black Children and Youth initiative of the Boston Network for Black Student Achievement. She served on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee.

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