A butterfly takes wing

FIRST FLIGHT. by Sara Fanelli. Typography by Chris Bigg Jonathan Cape. pound;10.99.

Literature across the curriculum by Jane Doonan

Sara Fanelli's picture books invite children to be active and imaginative. Through the intriguing subject matter and the vitality of her graphic style, with its wiry line drawing, collage, and dazzling colour, the books inspire children to pick up crayons, brushes, and scissors, draw maps, construct models, write a diary, and start story-telling. As if to demonstrate that there is a creative streak in everyone of us, the first images in her new book First Flight are 11 butterflies, made by artists aged from two years old to a venerable 93. The story is a warm-hearted tribute to perseverance, and shows how the power of love can work wonders.

Butterfly bursts out from her chrysalis, sees the blue sky, and yearns to reach closer to it: but how? Her initial attempts at flying-by-jumping only land her on her head - again and again. The determined young insect writes to a newspaper appealing for help, and letters arrive from experts all over the world.

By the time she arrives in Italy, Leonardo da Vinci has made her a fine pair of mechanical wings, but pulling at the flap cords to power them proves too tiring. Next, she's off to Mr. Papillon in Paris, then Mr. Wing in China, Mac (a Scottish ghost) and, finally, Marina in Brazil. All fail to get her successfully airborne, and she lands back home (on her head again), understandably giving way to tears.

Then a familiar voice calls to her and, in her rush to be reunited with her mother - yes, she's flying. In First Flight, the humour veers towards the surreal, images are idiosyncratic and every picture carries intriguing details, not the least being that Butterfly's wings change colour and pattern in response to different surroundings, so introducing the concept of natural camouflage.

The collage elements include foreign language print that can be enjoyed on different levels, a postcard of Paris, the reproduction of an etching of a loch, and snippets from snapshots. An example of mirror-writing features with technical plan drawings in Leonardo's notebook. As if all this were not enough, if you flick the pages backwards quickly while looking at the bottom left-hand side, you'll see a butterfly taking off - a useful demonstration in miniature of how to make moving pictures.

Chris Bigg, from V23, one of the UK's most influential design studios, is responsible for the unconventional typography, set vertically in thin columns, which creates an orderly pattern amidst the visual high jinks.

The children with whom First Flight was shared responded enthusiastically both to Butterfly's story and the artwork with its deliberate naivety, which gave them ideas. One little girl, a born collector, said: "I see how I can use my sweetie papers." First Flight lends itself to the topic of "travelling" for Year 2.


Read, re-read and discuss the story and pictures "drawing on different features of the text, including print and images, to obtain meaning".

Explore simple symbolic representation, such as signs for movement and direction, and the significance of background designs.

Pupils can be foreign-word detectives, spotting changes in the language icons. The illustration showing Butterfly reunited with her mother generates reflection and personal anecdote.

Additional group activity On the back endpapers the image of Butterfly asleep is set in the context of four quotations, at least two of which young philosophers could debate.

WritinglPoems, letters, travellers' tales.


The book associates different interests and traditions with people's nationalities, and this can be used to encourage discussion about the different nationalities represented within the school and how better understanding and respect for other cultures might be developed.


Life processes - Jthe life-cycle of a butterfly.


Record the stops Butterfly makes on her journey, pinpointing the places she visits on a globe, world map, or pictorial atlas.

Design and technology

Who was Leonardo? In his footsteps, design a way for Butterfly to get airborne - make a model.

Art and design

"Using a range of materials and processes, including ICT", create a picture, a butterfly kite, or a mobile on the topic of travelling.

In Fanelli style, each pupil can create a self-portrait using a photo-face on a drawingpainting of the body of an insect. Present their work as a class exhibition.


Study the Ancient Greek legend of Icarus.


In small groups, "improvise, developing rhythmic and melodic material" to express the mood and action of key events in Butterfly's adventures: perform in sequence.

Final flutter

Give Butterfly a new name.

With thanks to Joyce Williams, and The Mead primary school, Wiltshire. Jane Doonan writes and lectures on illustrative art in children's books

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