Books & Articles

Bird, Butterfly, Eel

Simon & Schuster (2009)

Bird, Butterfly, and Eel, spend their summers on the same coastal farm, but in the fall they go to very distant and different places. Their journeys to the far reaches of land and sea make them remarkable creatures. James Prosek uses these creatures' stories and his own sun-kissed paintings to introduce young readers to the basic elements of bird, fish, and insect migration.



“If there is such a thing as ‘nature deficit disorder’ – the idea that, because of DVDs, the Internet and you name it, children are disconnected from the natural world – these two books would be a good place to begin treatment. Both Kevin Henkes and James Prosek excel at observing nature…It is probably not too much to say that James Prosek, author of the stunning ‘Trout: An Illustrated History,’ is this generation’s Audubon. In ‘Bird, Butterfly, Eel,’ his second picture book, Prosek presents the life cycle of the three animals. The documentary feel is intentional as we page through what could be a naturalist’s field notes. Prosek’s detailed watercolor paintings bring us into the landscape. We feel the hot sun and summer breeze as Bird nests in the barn, Butterfly alights on bright orange flowers in the meadow, and Eel swims in the dark, cool waters of the pond below the lilies…You can tell Prosek understands that in factual books we want not only to be entertained but to build on our body of knowledge.”
    — New York Times Book Review

“[Prosek’s] latest book, Bird, Butterfly, Eel, will debut in bookstores in late February. It is designed for children and features colorful paintings and a concise story line following a year in the life of a barn swallow, a monarch butterfly, and an eel . . . The narrative traces the migration of a butterfly to Mexico, a barn swallow to the tip of Argentina, and an eel to a breeding ground east of Bermuda.”
    — Connecticut Post

“The brilliantly luminous watercolors deliver creatures so realistic they appear ready to slither and fly right off the pages. Gorgeous artwork and a wealth of facts nicely combine to create an introductory look at bird, insect, and fish migration.”
    — Kirkus

“A well-designed and useful resource to pique curiosity about an amazing aspect of the lives of many animals.”
    —School Library Journal

“The text tells what is happening in a concise, straightforward manner. Double-page paintings illustrate the animals and their habitats in broad, horizontal scenes. One particularly nice panel clearly depicts eight stages as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. The book concludes with two pages of information on the three species. A satisfying addition to classroom units on migration.”
    — Booklist

"Stunning...  James Prosek's passion for the natural world comes through in every aspect of this beautifully illustrated book.  The lovely and realistic paintings contain many details to captivate readers.  This well-designed story of animal migration is a fine introduction for young readers and a good starting point for more research on migratory patterns in general."
    – Junior Library Guild monthly

"Jewellike colors, skilled draftsmanship and intelligent composition bring readers right into the world of a trio of migrating animals. In a series of watercolors set in New England, Prosek (A Good Day's Fishing) enlivens his exploration of the life cycles of a barn swallow, a monarch butterfly and an American eel by introducing a sleek black cat into the spreads. She tips her nose up to the low-flying Butterfly, watches Bird as she feeds her nestlings and sits at the edge of Eel's pond (when they've gone south, she lies on an artist's table and sulks). Double-page spreads split horizontally into three panels to convey simultaneous action, and the aerial and underwater views add excitement. Prosek's lean text instructs simply: “[Eel] is eating insects and small fish and storing up energy for her long swimming journey ahead.” The few moments where he does allow himself poetic license stand out by contrast (“Eel's young, small as toothpicks and clear as glass, swim up the creek to the pond”). Even very young readers with an interest in the natural world will relish Prosek's intimate portraits."
    – Publisher's Weekly (*Starred Review)