In his first year of school, Francisco understands little of what his teacher says. But he is drawn to the silent, slow-moving caterpillar in the jar next to his desk. He knows caterpillars turn into butterflies, but just how do they do it? To find out, he studies the words in a butterfly book so many times that he can close his eyes and see the black letters, but he still can't understand their meaning.
Illustrated with paintings as deep and rich as the wings of a butterfly, this honest, unsentimental account of a schoolchild's struggle to learn language reveals that our imaginations powerfully sustain us. La Mariposa makes a subtle plea for tolerance in our homes, our communities, and in our schools.
The start of school is very confusing to Francisco: a different language, new faces and a routine he doesn't understand. He suffers from headaches and desires to "fly back" to his Papa in the fields. Francisco's interest is stimulated by what he can understand. He observes a caterpillar that will become a butterfly and draws what he sees around him. He can make no sense of the fact that the biggest boy in class beats him and rips the jacket that the kind principal has given him for warmth. By the story's end, Francisco is involved in class and has earned the understanding and empathy of his classmates. Jimenez weaves Spanish, without translation, through the text. Not only does this more truly represent Francisco's character; it gives English-speaking readers a better understanding of the protagonist's trials. This should be required reading for older elementary children who are meeting students from other cultures. The book was written and illustrated by two men who immigrated and worked in the fields of California. The book's strength reflects their experiences.