I first heard of this book when our local library advertised a presentation by Book-It Repertory Theatre. We love library activities, so we made sure to note the date and make plans to attend. The day of the presentation we arrived to find that the library wasn’t big enough to hold all the people who wanted to participate, so they had arranged to move it next door to the City Hall. My children were excited- how can you blame them after a summer of no story times? They did participate in summer reading which was rewarding in its own way, but due to numerous out-of-town adventures and swimming lessons, we missed story time and my kids love story time.

The three actors introduced themselves and explained that the presentation would be presented bilingually- which didn’t phase any of the children present

la mariposa
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(our schools are upwards of 90% migrant/immigrant Latino children and everyone is used to hearing both languages). The curtains were pulled aside and we were transported to a Mexican migrant camp in California where Francisco is preparing for his first day of school. So many of the ‘1st day of school’ concerns that were mentioned transcend all boundaries as well as the excitement of riding the bus to school for the very first time! We were all empathetic when the actors portrayed the very real and disconcerting experience it was for Francisco to enter a world where the only word he understood was his own name. The actors communicated this superbly when slipping easily from ‘Fransisco’ into Charlie Brown phone speak (blah, blah, blah) to ‘Francisco’ and back again. I was especially pleased to have my children get a glimpse into what it is like for many of their class-mates who start sometimes in the middle of the year, having just arrived or returned from Mexico (or somewhere else south of the border) and who know very little, if any, English.

La Mariposa will give anyone who is open to learning, a glance into a common American immersion experience that teaches children to transcend the boundaries of race and status and find a common beauty that pulls us all together. In this case, the beauty that pulls Francisco’s class together is a butterfly- a thread that is woven throughout the book and play. My highest praise goes to the wonderful actors who piqued my interest in this autobiographical children’s story. The book, wonderful on its own merits, became even better when transferred to the stage.

As a side note, my middle child came home from school today having colored pictures of friends in school. To my surprise, all the children in the picture were brown- including mine! As one of only two or three non-latino anglo children in that class, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there is no perceived difference- children really are immune to prejudice until they are taught!

If you want to help promote literacy, please consider making a donation to the Quincy Public Library new building fund. For more information, call 509-787-2359 or email Schiree Ybarra, the librarian supervisor, at quincy@ncrl.org