Spotlight on Science Writers: Loree Griffin Burns

Image - spotlight150.pngA select group of authors who have won or been finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books have been invited to write or record an introduction to one of their books. We have suggested a few guidelines, but the format and content have been chosen by each author and will be appropriate for their book's intended audience. Science NetLinks will include related classroom resources appropriate for students and educators at the end of each Spotlight on Science Writers post. You can read all the posts in this series here.

Pupae at El Bosque Nuevo. Photo Credit: Ellen Harasimowicz.

Loree Griffin Burns on Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey:

In the fall of 2008, I took my kids to The Butterfly Garden at the Museum of Science in Boston. The Butterfly Garden is a humid little space inside the museum where visitors can walk among living, breathing butterflies. We were mesmerized. Bright and beautiful butterflies flew in the room all around us, occasionally landing on a flower bud, or on someone’s head. It was crazy! Crazier still was what I learned as I made my way through the exhibit: Most of the insects flying by our noses had hatched from eggs several weeks earlier … in Central America. I couldn’t rest until I learned more about this. Where, exactly, did they come from? And how, exactly, did they get here?

I started by interviewing the caretaker of the live butterfly exhibit, Lea Morgan. She showed me a special room, off-limits to most museum visitors, where hundreds of butterfly and moth pupae were pinned inside plastic shoe boxes, waiting for the day they were ready to emerge as adults and be transferred to the exhibit room. While I was there, Lea got a box from Costa Rica. A deliveryman handed this box to her casually, as if it might contain something humdrum, like socks or notebooks. But there was actually something spectacular inside: hundreds and hundreds of butterfly pupae, in an array of sizes and shapes and colors.

I made several more visits to The Butterfly Garden, and to Lea’s special pupae room. Eventually, she invited me to travel with her to El Bosque Nuevo, the butterfly farm that raised her pupae. Photographer Ellen Harasimowicz and I went to the farm twice, meeting the farmers, learning how they raise herds of caterpillars, watching them package pupae which would be sent to butterfly exhibits all over the world. Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey shares their story.

Loree's son at The Butterfly Garden at the Museum of Science in Boston.
Photo Credit: Loree Griffin Burns.

Loree Griffin Burns. Photo Credit: Ellen Harasimowicz.Loree Griffin Burns is an award-winning writer whose books for young people have won many accolades, including ALA Notable designations, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book Award, an IRA Children’s Book Award, a Green Earth Book Award, and two AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and her books draw heavily on both her passion for science and nature and her experiences as a working scientist. Loree lives with her husband and their three children in a farmhouse in central New England, where she gardens, keeps chickens, and writes about science and scientists. Photo Credit: Ellen Harasimowicz. 

Her book, Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, was a finalist for the 2015 SB&F Prize for the Best Middle Grades Science Book.

Going Further

  • Book/Author Resources
    • Check out this slideshow from Ellen Harasimowicz, photographer of Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey. (pdf)
    • Take a virtual trip to El Bosque Nuevo. (video)
    • If you enjoy this book, you might also enjoy Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard, one of Loree's earlier books. Watch a video interview with her where she discusses her writing process and her work on the book, as well as a video of her reading an excerpt of the book.
  • Insects
    • Interested in learning more about caterpillars? You can listen to these Science Update podcasts to hear how a species of caterpillar tricks ants into treating it better than their own young (Imposter Caterpillars) and how a tobacco-eating caterpillar creates the equivalent of smoker’s breath to scare off predators (Caterpillar Halitosis).
    • Insects.org provides a great deal of information about the world's most diverse organisms: insects.
    • The Bug Club, produced by the Amateur Entomologists' Society in the United Kingdom, is a great introduction to insects and entomology, the study of insects.
    • Animals: Facts, Pictures, and Videos, from National Geographic Kids, provides a lot of information about a variety of wildlife, including insects, and their habitats.
    • Watch Why Garden for Wildlife? to learn why it's important to plan gardens with wildlife, including insects, in mind.
  • Citizen Science
    • If you're interested in butterflies in the wild, some of these apps may be for you. For instance, the Journey North App helps you track animal migrations and seasons.
    • The Project Noah App encourages nature lovers to document the wildlife they encounter.
    • Use iNaturalist App to record observations from nature and share them with the iNaturalist online community.

Related Educator Resources



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