Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Little Monarchs

by Jonathan Case

Little Monarchs

by Jonathan Case

Review posted September 16, 2022.
Margaret Ferguson Books (Holiday House), 2022. 256 pages.
Review written September 12, 2022, from a library book.
Starred Review
2022 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Children's Speculative Fiction

This post-apocalyptic graphic novel features a 10-year-old protagonist, Elvie. With the help of her caretaker, Flora, she's learned how to safely scavenge and survive on things left since mammals were wiped out on earth fifty years before.

It wasn't war that wiped out humans. It was sun sickness, caused by a change in the radiation coming from the sun. The only people who survived were deep underground. Survivors, Deepers, lived in underground communities. Until Flora discovered that scales from Monarch butterflies could be used to make medicine that protects people from sun sickness. The problem is that it takes lots of butterflies to make enough medicine for a few people, and it expires after six weeks.

Eight years before, when Elvie was a baby, her parents traveled to Mexico, where they could find more monarchs and get more medicine and work on a vaccine. They left Elvie in Flora's care. But they didn't come back and sent a message by carrier pigeon that though they had made it, the trip was too difficult without a vaccine.

Not long after they received the message, marauders attacked their site and took it over. Since then, Flora and Elvie have been on their own, with Flora always trying to develop a vaccine, so humans would be able to live on the surface again.

All this background is communicated fairly quickly. Flora and Elvie have some adventures while simply foraging for supplies, and then an earthquake hits. After the earthquake, they find a toddler near the ruins of an underground station. They have no choice but to take care of him. But will his adults follow? And can they be trusted?

This graphic novel had me on the edge of my seat. I loved Elvie -- so resourceful, feisty, and kind-hearted.

You might think the story of humanity wiped out by sun sickness would be dark and dismal, but since Elvie and Flora have the medicine, the pictures are bright and colorful. I learned a lot about Monarchs along the way. (Which goes well with a board game I bought recently called "Mariposas" that's about Monarch migration.)

Bottom line, this is a really good story -- great art, great characters, gripping plot.