As the days lengthen and warm here in Vermont, and the snow finally disappears in the last places that it was hanging on, we find ourselves able to get out into the woods and down near the creeks and streams that run all spring and summer long. This has me thinking about dragon and damselflies and reminded me of a lovely picture book that I thought I might share. Eliza and the Dragonfly, by Susan Caldwell Rinehart (with illustrations by Anisa Clair Hovemann), is the story of a little girl who learns to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, even in it's less obviously beautiful forms.
In the beginning of the story, Eliza finds a dragonfly in her house, and shares her discovery with her aunt Doris, an entomologist with a flair for the dramatic. On their trip to return the dragonfly to the local pond, the pair discover a dragonfly nymph which Eliza finds ugly and a little repulsive. She is fascinated nonetheless, particularly by the promise of the what the nymph will become, and the rest of the story follows Eliza's observation of the growth of the nympth throughout the summer months until the day it finally becomes the wonderful creature Eliza hoped for.
There are a number of things about this book which I love and which I think makes it a particularly good read. The watercolor illustrations are evocative of warm, sunny days and the basic plot of the story has just enough mystery to keep curious children interested until the very end. However, I particularly like the elements of the story that are threaded throughout the book in less obvious ways. Through her experience of watching the natural process of dragonfly growth and transformation, Eliza has a chance to discover the good that can come from just being who you are and letting go of feelings that you should be any different. Watching the dragonfly get comfortable in his own skin, on his own time, inspires Eliza to do the same. This is a great message for kids (and adults) of any age. Scientific information about dragonflies, observation of animals in the natural environment and the process of metamorphosis is also neatly woven into the story and lays a great foundation for learning more about insect life cycles.
Eliza and the Dragonfly is published by Dawn Publications, a publishing house that specializes in books aimed at helping children develop healthy connections to the natural world. This book is a part of their Sharing Nature with Children series, and ends with two pages of factual information about dragonflies as well as a list of resources for learning more and planning lessons.
If you and yours are interested in learning more about dragonflies (or their insect relatives, the damselflies) you can check out this post from The Magnifying Glass archives. Also, if you are interested in trying your hand at raising some dragon or damselfly nymphs yourself, you can buy them here and here. I think we may just give it a try this spring!