cover image Monarca


Leopoldo Gout and Eva Aridjis. HarperOne, $26.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-305733-3

Gout (Daniel X: Alien Hunter) and Aridjis (La Santa Muerte) spin a metaphysical fable, weighted down by heavy-handed messaging. Inés is turning 13, and her father gives her an obsidian necklace “radiating energy,” which has been in the family for generations. Wearing the stone transforms Inés into a monarch butterfly, and she is sent on a journey by an insect seer to join a local swarm in their migration to the butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico (he intones: “On the day the souls of the dead return to visit the earth, there will be a final battle for which you were chosen at birth”). Using a monarch’s life cycle to frame a magical narrative, Inés encounters myriad challenges ranging from pesticides to crooked farmers to an ancestral enemy armed with a butterfly hunting hawk. In a culminating battle between man and insect, Inés accepts her role as “a daughter of the sun.” But while passionate emotions and themes of environmental advocacy buoy the story, the moral messages land as didactic (“She’d learned how to feed and sunbathe, but most importantly she’d learned about community.”) The messy, mixed-media art and hybrid of comics and picture-book format lends to the mythological quality, with bright colors and painterly composition. Though aimed at all ages, it’s most likely to appeal to junior readers. It’s preachy, but it still packs a lot of heart. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, DeFiore and Company. (Apr.)