Reviewed by Beverly Slapin
Unfortunately, Juan Pablo & the Butterflies is littered with, among other things, highly unlikely events; each signaled by the arrival of a butterfly, who guides JP, showing him where to go and what to do. (The butterflies, of course, embody the spirit of JP’s abuela, now residing with the “Sky People.”) Such events include, but are far from limited to, the sudden appearance of strangers—from wealthy tourists to poor agricultural workers—who arrive on the scene to save JP from catastrophe and provide a passport and birth certificate for Rocio; the opportunity for JP and Rocio to save a baby whale (while the youngster’s mother hovers nearby), who had become entangled in netting; and—as JP confronts his own inevitable death and hears his abuela’s wisdom about everyone’s being spirits having a physical experience here on earth—the sudden arrival of the cops and a SWAT Team (the “good guys”) to rescue him from the narcotraficantes’ bounty hunter.
Besides these unlikely events, there’s confusing dialog and mangled Spanish. And, although Juan Pablo is the protagonist, the focus of the story is his abuela. It’s JP’s memories of Abuela’s teaching that becomes the vehicle for the author’s nonsensical imaginary perspective of “old Indian wisdom.” Continue reading.
Juan Pablo and the Butterflies by JJ Flowers
Published by Simon and Schuster on May 9th 2017
Genres: Immigration and Emigration
Reading Level: Grades 6-8, High School
Review Source: De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
After facing a vicious drug cartel in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly sanctuary, Juan Pablo and his best friend Rocio risk everything and try to escape the cartel’s henchmen—determined to pursue them at all costs—by following the butterflies’ migration all the way to California.
Juan Pablo lives in El Rosario, Mexico’s butterfly sanctuary, where millions of winged creatures gather together in one magical place. It is his home, his life.
He loves his music, the butterflies, and his grandmother, who has fallen fatally ill—which is why he can’t leave, even when a nefarious drug cartel overtakes the town. But the threat of the cartel becomes ever more menacing, finally endangering the life of his best friend Rocio, the girl he loves. In a heroic act of desperation to save her, Juan Pablo poisons eight members of the cartel.
Together, Juan Pablo and Rocio flee, following the instructions his grandmother gave before she took her last breath: Follow the migration of the butterflies, where someone will be waiting for you.
But are they following the wings of freedom? Or death?