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“They follow those with a pure heart. They love unconditionally, ” Grammy Claire. —When the Butterflies Came
When the Butterflies Came
by Kimberley Griffiths Little
AR Test, Teaches About Culture
Tara Doucet is a twelve-year old who seems to have everything going for her. She comes from one of the oldest families in New Iberia Parish and is a descendant of the original Paris Doucet Family. However, beneath the surface, Tara is struggling with a number of challenges. Her beloved Grammy Claire recently passed away, leaving a void in Tara’s life. Additionally, her mother has become reclusive and is unable to deal with her recent divorce or the looming foreclosure of their family plantation, leaving Tara to shoulder much of the burden. To make matters worse, Tara and her sister have never seen eye-to-eye, causing further tension and conflict within the family.
Despite these difficulties, Tara’s life takes an unexpected turn for the better when she has a remarkable experience. After Tara’s grandmother’s funeral, a beautiful, velvety purple butterfly visits her, almost as if it were sent by her grandmother. Moments later, Tara receives a letter that sets her on a quest to unlock the mystery surrounding her Grammy Claire’s research with butterflies. As she delves deeper into her grandmother’s past, Tara must confront her own fears and insecurities and learn to embrace the beauty and complexity of life.
The letter Tara receives from her grandmother leads her on an unexpected adventure to protect the butterflies that her grandmother discovered. Tara’s journey takes her to her grandmother’s house where she finds 10 keys and more letters with cryptic clues; the letters urge Tara to protect the butterflies and trust no one. As Tara progresses from clue to clue, she learns of her grandmother’s amazing scientific discovery. However, the discovery is what put her grandmother’s life and the existence of the butterflies in peril.
The suspense builds as Tara relies on her wits and follows her heart to find the clues. She risks everything to save her grandmother’s butterflies. Tara’s wondrous tale is narrated in a gripping first-person, present tense, which allows readers to experience the intense range of emotions Tara goes through, including emotions from the depths of grief to the heights of wonder, from gripping fear to overwhelming surprise. As the reader follows Tara’s journey, they will be drawn into the vivid and enchanting landscape that is painted, where the rules of reality are suspended and anything is possible.
Throughout Tara’s journey, she encounters various obstacles and challenges that she must overcome to succeed in her mission to protect the butterflies. Tara learns more about her grandmother’s life and the scientific discoveries she made. She also uncovers a sinister plot to destroy the butterflies and their habitat. Tara must use all of her skills and intelligence to stop the plot and protect the butterflies.
However, figuring out who is behind all the danger is not an easy task. Tara must travel to the island of Chuuk, where her grandmother lived and her research began five years ago. There, she dives deep into her grandmother’s research, searching for clues that will help her uncover the truth of who is behind the plot to destroy the butterflies. Her journey to Chuuk reveals a world full of secrets and dangers that Tara never imagined. But with each new challenge, she grows stronger and more determined to complete her mission and protect the butterflies.
Overall, Tara’s adventure is a thrilling and exciting story that teaches readers about the importance of protecting the environment and the creatures that inhabit it. When the Butterflies Came highlights the importance of perseverance, courage, and intelligence in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. The story also emphasizes the power of family, even in the face of adversity, and the importance of cherishing the memories of those who have passed on. Tara’s journey is a story of growth and discovery, of facing one’s fears and finding the strength to overcome them, and of the enduring power of love.
- Tara is up at two in the morning trying to determine what the seventh key, that her grandmother leaves as a clue towards her secrets of the butterflies, unlocks when she hears someone moving around upstairs. She goes to her Grammy Claire’s laboratory that should have been locked shut. Instead, she finds it unlocked and one of the precious butterflies, crushed on a desk. Tara wonders, “‘What happened here? How did she die?’ And then I started to cry even harder because I know deep in my heart that the Giant Pink butterfly didn’t die of old age. It didn’t have an accident. Its life span didn’t just run out. It was murdered.”
- In a letter following the seventh key, Grammy Claire outlines that there is someone who is willing to put their lives in danger for the butterflies. “Someone wants to hurt the [butterflies]. To steal them, and destroy them. I cannot allow that to happen. They are precious. They hold a secret the world is not ready for, but which someone is willing to kill for. I often make myself crazy thinking about each person I know on the island and wondering who wants the butterflies. And who might want me dead.” The letter makes Tara question how her grandmother died. She begins to wonder if her grandmother’s car accident, wasn’t truly an accident.
- Tara finds her sister, Riley, splayed out at the bottom of the stairs, which are covered in water and oil. Riley begins to draw conclusions of her own that she shares with Tara. Riley says, “These stairs were just fine last night . . . I think somebody tried to hurt me. Or you.”
- While Tara and Riley are attending a barbecue, two gunshots go off. “A second later, there’s two ear-splitting pops that rupture the air. Instantly, the bark of the palm tree I’m sitting next to spurts a shower of splinters. My cheeks sting from flying, razor-like slivers, and then shredded bark sprays over my hair, my lap, and clothes. I’m screaming as I fall to the ground.” Tara is okay, but they find a bullet missed her head by inches. Riley and Tara run to escape.
- After finding the final last chest that unlocks the secrets of the butterflies, Riley and Tara try to leave the island when they are intercepted by the individuals who have been after their family the whole time. Tara is suddenly “tackled from behind and flung to the ground. The treasure chest launches out of my arms and I get a mouthful of sand. Then someone huge and strong reaches around and clasps their hand around my mouth.” Tara remains pinned in the sand.
- Tara and Riley’s captors talk about how to dispose of them. “‘Rope.’ ‘Nope. Grotto.’ ‘Hmm . . . might be easiest’ ‘. . . found Claire’s hidden chest. Look like they drowned getting it.’”
- As Tara and Riley’s captors held their heads over the water, Riley screams out to Tara. Riley’s “voice is instantly muffled as a hand roughly shoves my head under the water. I never get a chance to take a decent breath. Almost immediately, bubbles escape my nose. After twenty more seconds, my eyes bulge, trying to see in the dark water, staring up at the cavern roof. Beams of light flash here and there, squiggly and hazy . . . Now I’m bursting. I am truly drowning. My lungs are on fire. I’m going to die! Die!” Right before Tara’s body can completely give out, the men release because people show up.
Drugs and Alcohol
- In Grammy Claire’s third note, she mentions the importance of nipwisipwis, but Tara doesn’t quite understand what it means. It isn’t until her sister Riley looks up that it is written in another language –Chuukese. “I can barely choke out the words. ‘Nipwisipwis means butterfly!’” Nipwisipwis is utilized frequently for the rest of the book.
- ‘Kinnisow’ means ‘thank you’ in Chuukese. Eloni, Grammy Claire’s research assistant, teaches this to Tara so that she may use it while on the island.
- The first butterfly to visit Tara is a small, purple one that floats into her room. It sits and stares into her eyes, making Tara question if there is something special about the butterfly. “This butterfly ain’t no regular butterfly. ‘Are you magic?’ I say real quiet, because I don’t want it to fly away and disappear.”
- In Grammy Claire’s second note, she talks about her dear friend who used to help Tara’s mom come out of her bouts of melancholy. To do so, she utilized herbal practices to create a concoction. Tara says, “’I’ll bet Grammy Claire’s talking about the mother of Miz Mirage, the woman who lives in the swamp. The one all the kids at school call a swamp witch. . . Maybe what she does ain’t bad magic at all.’ Words dance in front of my eyes. Herbs. Healing. Prayers. Love.”
- Someone shows Tara the magic of the butterflies. Tara begins to realize that the purple ones with a yellow outline can make music of their own.
- Upon finding the last chest, Tara and Riley begin to read some of the curious findings that make their grandmother’s work with butterflies so dangerous. “I stare inside the thick envelope, trying to focus. Words jump out at me. Nipwisipwis is written over and over again on every sheet. Giant Pink. Experiments. Turn back time.”
- After Grammy Claire dies, Tara receives a letter from her that was written in the event of her death. The letter says, “What does gone mean, after all? Am I six feet under? Floating in the air or dancing on a cloud? Maybe I am having tea with God and making Him answer the long list of questions I’ve been hungering after for decades . . . even if that means I’ll wake up in heaven next time I see you. You can bet I’ll be the first in line to hug you and smother you with kisses.”
- In a letter, Grammy Claire tells Tara how she is looking down on her from heaven. “In Chuukese, they call heaven naangenu, the place we came from and the place we return after death. Where I am, I will be with you in spirit. Always”
- Eloni, Grammy Claire’s research assistant, tries to comfort Tara. Eloni says Grammy Claire is still looking over them and that Grammy Claire, “is right now watching. From naangenu. . . It means heaven. Where the gods live. And one day, we live there, too.”