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Monday 24 July 2023

Review: Yellow Butterfly - A Story from Ukraine

Wordless but powerful, this extraordinary response to the war in Ukraine will tear at the heartstrings.

Wordless picture books are open to interpretation by the reader. They activate imagination and create discussion.

It opens on darkness. The dark rain of destruction falls, filling the surrounding world. Insurmountable barricades appear; barbed wire fences are erected. A child stands staring through the spikes. A shadow of that same child becomes any child; alone and defenceless.

The child sees the barbed wire reforming, becoming a giant spider trying to devour her. She runs but there is no escape.

Filled with fear, she enters a tunnel.

 All her eyes can see is the giant spider. She trips on a stone, and tumbles forward.

She is afraid to open her eyes. When she does, a bright yellow butterfly appears surrounded by blinding light in the centre of a barbed wire circle.

The child follows the yellow butterfly along the wire fencing. Its flightpath creates large images of her shape. It leads her past huge black posts and flies into the light.

She passes a man standing still as a scarecrow. Birds rest on his outstretched arms. He has an outline of a yellow butterfly on his chest. Now two butterflies accompany the child on her journey.

Bombs fall around her but the butterflies increase. They fill a bomb hole. She passes a playground and remembers how children played there and butterflies fill the air around them. Her shadow keeps moving and butterflies increase in volume.

Now ruins are surrounded in butterflies. Their brilliance is magnificent against the charred remains. She longs for carefree times when cats climbed trees and trees still stood tall.

She is filled with rage at war which destroys all things. She wants to push away the bombs that destroy with the help of the butterflies that represent hope and renewal.

The darkness is now filled with a waterfall of illuminated yellow butterflies. They surround her; follow her and lead the way out of the darkness.  

What she finds is a world of colour and brilliance. She runs from the piles of bombed cars to a place of thousands of yellow butterflies against blue sky.

The butterfly leads her past barbed wire fencing, where black skies have turned blue, and the air is filled with yellow hope. The colours of the Ukraine flag. She comes alone but realises she is joined by others in the light, with their faces turned toward the future.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to The Universal Reading Foundation who send children’s books to Ukraine.

Title: Yellow Butterfly: A Story from Ukraine
Author/Illustrator: Oleksandr Shatokhin
Publisher: Red Comet Press, $32.99
Publication Date: 1 Jan 2023
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 97813636550640
For ages: 5+
Type: Wordless Picture Book