Score: 9.4+/100 (94+/100)
We are so tempted to give Pearl, Our Butterfly our highest score for a children's book (9.5), and we may consider it further at the end of this competition. What a powerful, emotional roller-coaster wrapped into just 16 riveting pages! This is far and away one of the most emotional books we've ever read!
Pearl, Our Butterfly is the finale in the Welcome Home, Pearl trilogy of children's books written by Tuula Pere, a children's author who continually dares to do the unthinkable: to explore deep, dark, and depressing themes that often go unexplored or unacknowledged in children's books.
We caught ourselves crying or close to crying throughout the series, and this book is arguably the saddest and impactful of them all. It is no spoiler that Pearl was not expected to live very long, born premature with disabilities that seemed to impact her ability to breathe, move, and function. Throughout the series, we were bracing for the moment when we'd have to say goodbye to Pearl along with her brother and family, whom we grew so attached to.
Jacob is such an amazing, loving, and endearing character. The way he goes out of his way to help and make Pearl's life as comfortable, happy, and meaningful as possible cannot be understated. Jacob is constantly looking for new ways to be a good big brother to Pearl. One of the most heartwarming and heartwrenching sequences in this book is when he sings to her while she's connected to her life support and breathing tubes.
The illustrator captured the amazing moment when Pearl's eyes actually managed to look up to Jacob, and her eyes express gratitude and happiness at the sound of his singing and voice.
This book also features a very powerful and beautiful analogy for Pearl's life, something which can possibly be a bit complicated and convoluted for kids, but that is no doubt heartfelt. Jacob compares Pearl to a butterfly, something he's learning about at school. He sees that Pearl being wrapped up in her blankets in hospice care resembles a caterpillar in its chrysalis. He then imagines her sprouting wings (like an angel or butterfly) and being free of her “chrysalis.” This is very powerful and beautiful, as we said, because it has another meaning. Pearl's life may have been short, but it still had meaning, she still experienced (and showed) love, life, comfort, and warmth—things that you can't put an expiration date or price tag on. She is also leaving her vulnerable human body behind and ascending to a higher plane of existence similar to a butterfly.
You also see that Jacob learns a lot from this experience including the value of human life and to not take it for granted. He thanks the heavens that his grandma has lived long enough to comfort him in his moment of sadness. He comes to grips that the universe works in mysterious ways and that things just happen sometimes that we can't foresee, understand, or control.
This is definitely one of the most emotional books we've ever read in any genre. Kids and parents who are experiencing the loss of a loved one may really be able to empathize with the characters in this book.
Check it out on Amazon!