Saving the Butterfly: A story about refugees

By Helen Cooper

Illustrated by Gill Smith

A poetic, powerful story about a little brother and a big sister finding a new home and new hope after being rescued from a boat lost in the dark sea.

A little brother and his big sister try their best to settle in a new home, where they have nothing left from before except each other. The little one makes new friends and quickly learns to laugh again but his sister remains haunted by the shadows of their past and hides away in their broken house. Trying to help his sister, the little one catches a butterfly for her and brings it inside the house. His sister knows that she needs to set the butterfly free ... but that would mean going outside. In taking the first steps to face her fears and save the butterfly, she also begins the process of saving herself.

Categories: Picture Books

For readers aged: 4+

  • Publication details:
  • Format: Hardback
  • ISBN: 9781406397208
  • Published: 03 Feb 2022
  • Price: £12.99
  • Size: 270 x 250 mm
  • Pages: 32

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Customer reviews


'a triumph of storytelling in words and art.' 'Children's Books About Immigration', The New York Times

'Gill Smith’s illustrations for Saving the Butterfly (Walker) by Helen Cooper also lean towards muted grey shades as we see a boy and his older sister, two refugees, rescued from a boat. The boy settles, makes friends, but the girl is haunted by the past and can’t move on until the day her brother brings her a butterfly. As the insect and the girl begin to flourish, the illustrations become as rich and colourful as the butterfly’s wings. A tender tale focusing on the aftermath of conflict, it’s a great companion to Nicola Davies’s The Day War Came (2019).' Observer

'with illustrations that find sweetness in sadness, this touching picture book is the resonant story of refugee siblings who have lost everything but each other' The Sunday Times

'This is the most beautiful story of loss, fear and hope, tied together with the healing power of nature.' Juno

'Featured in ‘Best children’s books of 2022 so far’' Sunday Times

'[…]this collaboration with Smith […] is excellent. Both value the power of allowing the pictures and written narrative to invite layers of meaning. It is a hopeful story but [...] does not steer away from the reality and trauma of being displaced from your home into a foreign land.' Books For Keeps

'The issue of refugees and those on small boats seeking some sort of help is, in so many ways, the story of this year. To be able to condense it down into a moving picture book for small children is an incredible feat. Prepare for questions. Prepare for tears. This is an essential kids’ narrative for the fractured times we’re in.' The Best Children's Books of 2022, The Big Issue

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