This county story starts under a plant

  • test4Writer and butterfly fan

Frank Zufall

Writer and butterfly fan

Mary Ellen Ryall is surrounded by photos and her journal used to document the emergence of a monarch butterfly in her garden in 2003, which eventually became the story for My Name is Butterfly.

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 8:31 am | Updated: 11:51 am, Thu Dec 22, 2011.

BY FRANK ZUFALL | 0 comments

For those looking for a Christmas gift inspired by a Washburn County story, one idea is My Name is Butterfly, a book written by Mary Ellen Ryall, director of Happy Tonics, the organization behind the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake.

Ryall wrote the story based on personal observations in her Minong garden in 2003.

“I saw this chrysalis under a bean plant, attached to the bottom of the bean leaf,” she said. “I thought, ‘What in heaven’s name is this?'”

She took a photo of the chrysalis and sent it to a friend in Ohio. “She said, ‘Mary-Ellen, do you realize you have a monarch butterfly chrysalis there?'”

From ground level, Ryall studied and observed the chrysalis change to adult butterfly.

“While I was there I had my bottle of water and this notepad,” she said. “I kept wondering, ‘What is she trying to teach me?’ I had no idea why I was having this experience, and I wrote down even about that.”

Ryall said a rabbit had eaten part of the leaf where the chrysalis was anchored, so she constructed a little fence around the bean plant.

“If that rabbit had come back one more day, I wouldn’t even have a chrysalis left.”

When the chrysalis turned dark, Ryall knew the butterfly was about to emerge.

“This is the very first time the butterfly comes out. Her wings were completely wet,” she said, “and I was with her for three hours. That’s how long it takes for a butterfly’s wings to dry out. They try to climb higher and higher to reach the sun, to get their wings dried. They pump fluids from abdomen to wings to do that.”

Ryall recalls the butterfly’s journey toward the sun: “And then the butterfly tried to climb up the bean pole, but the top of the plant had been eaten by the rabbit. She climbed to another plant and she went to a sunflower. She almost fell down. She had to right herself.”

During the climb, Ryall saw the male butterfly fold its wings back to let the underside dry.

“I’ve never seen a shot like that before,” Ryall said about the photograph she took of the butterfly.

“Then he gets up tall on this sunflower, and that’s when he flew away.”

From her Minong garden, Ryall shared her journal observations and photos with Patrick Shields, an English professor at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College.

“He said, ‘Knowing you, that butterfly will be immortal,'” she said.

The journal notes were transformed in what Ryall calls a “creative, non-fiction” story – her experience but with other characters: a young girl and her mother.

Publishing

After the story was written, Ryall looked for a publisher. In a twist of fate, a publisher’s granddaughter volunteered at the Happy Tonics office

“Her grandmother came in one day and said, ‘I heard you wrote a story about a butterfly, about a monarch.’ I said, ‘I did,’ and she said, ‘Can I see it?'”

The publisher was Lindy Casey of Salt of the Earth Press, a small publisher from Northern Wisconsin focusing on books for children, the environment, organic gardening, recipes.

Ryall left Casey alone in the Happy Tonics office with the manuscript while Ryall visited the Shell Lake library.

“When I came back, she said, ‘This is important work. I’m going to publish it.'”

After a deal was struck, Stevie Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza of Las Vegas, Nev., was chosen to illustrate the book.

To help the illustrator, Ryall asked Minong’s Cassie Thompson and her mother, Tanya, to recreate scenes from the story which Ryall photographed.

“I told her [Cassie] to wear a baseball cap and she said, ‘I don’t wear a baseball cap.’ I said, ‘In this story she does wear a baseball cap.'”

Cassie takes on the character Sara Reynolds who goes out to the garden and finds a butterfly egg and then a caterpillar.

In the story, Mom cautions Sara to leave the new life alone and also teaches Sara new terms, like pupae.

“Her mother teaches her [Sara] while the butterfly teaches her the actual life cycle, so it’s the butterfly telling the story, basically, and getting more information from her mother.”

Coloring book

Following My Name is Butterfly, Ryall and a graphic designer from Alexandria, Va. created a publishing house called Butterfly Women Publishing.

The first publishing project, due out this spring for Earth Day, is a coloring book of Monarch butterflies illustrated by Gordon artist Mora McCusker.

“There are so many people I can reach locally. If I want the greater message to get out there, I have to get it published,” said Ryall. “That’s why we created the publishing house, so we could get some of my essays and manuscripts out there. If my life is short and sweet, this will be something of me to leave on this planet.”

Book

My Name is Butterfly is available at Amazon.com or by visiting www.happytonics.org.

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PRESS RELEASE “My Name is Butterfly” is published by Salt of the Earth Press

PRESS RELEASE

The new Salt of the Earth Press children’s book, “My Name is Butterfly” educates about the life-cycle of Monarch butterflies with a sense of wonder and discovery.

Cassie Thompson and Mary Ellen Ryall on Earth Day 2011

Cassie Thompson and Mary Ellen Ryall on Earth Day 2011

Shell Lake, WI – Thursday, June 30, 2011 – While children may find butterflies and their early life as caterpillars exciting to stumble upon in the garden, “My Name is Butterfly” will leave them with a new sense of these fascinating creatures. Mary Ellen Ryall writes and Stevie Marie Aubochan-Mendoza illustrates this beautiful little book that educates as it immerses the reader in the life of the Monarch butterfly.

The book was inspired by a butterfly birth the author witnessed in her own gardens several years ago in Mining, WI. “My Name is Butterfly” tells the story of a young girl who stumbles upon a Monarch caterpillar in her garden one summer day. From
there, she and the reader learn about the life-cycle of the Monarch as well as how to maintain a garden habitat that will keep these amazing creatures coming back year after year.

The Monarch butterfly itself is perhaps the most well-known butterfly of North America, but is also threatened by habitat loss. Deforestation in their overwintering grounds in particular has led to drastic reductions in the population. The Happy Tonics Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI as spearheaded by the author to benefit the migrating Monarchs and educate the public.

“My Name is Butterfly” is available through Amazon for online purchase, Happy Tonics Visitors Center for the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI and the Visitors Center in Minong as well as at My Favorite Things in Shell Lake, WI.

The author Mary Ellen Ryall grew up n Saratoga Springs, NY. In pursuit of butterflies, she worked and traveled in South America in the 1970s. In the 1980s Ryall completed the Master Gardeners Program, University of the District of Columbia, and
became involved with community gardens. Living in southern Maryland in the 1900s, she wrote about the environment and founded Happy Tonics. Ryall moved to Wisconsin in 2000, graduating from the Woodlands Wisdom Nutrition Project at
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in 2003.

The illustrator Stevie Marie Aubochan=Mendoza lives with her family outside the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, NV. She is inspired by the dusty, desert landscape and the secrets that it holds. When she isn’t painting dinosaurs and dragons, she
loves having tea parties and playing in the dirt with her young daughter.

For more information about “My Name is Butterfly,” please visit http://saltpress.com or contact Happy Tonic at
(715) 468-2097 or visit them on the Internet at www.happytonics.org

NOTES: Cassandra Thompson was the girl model for the book. She has been a monarch butterfly advocate since her early years. Cassie grows milkweed for the monarch. I felt it was important that the story have a real butterfly girl in the story. She reminds me of Alice in Wonderland.

REVIEWS:

“What a wonderful, wonderful book!” Judy Ford, WI, USA and Mexico

“The little butterfly book is just darling. The text is smooth, informative and easy to comprehend. The illustrations are so sweet and the colors really pop.”
Ronnie Hohos, Fitchburg, MA , USA

“Thank you for the opportunity to own your sweet, informative butterfly book.” Gloria Thue, Spooner, WI

“Thank you for the lovely words! It means a lot to me that you like my artwork and I’m honored to be a part of your book. I started it while pregnant and finished it with my daughter sleeping in the next room so the butterfly will always have a special meaning for me now. I think what you’re doing is wonderful and I’m glad you can touch the world with your words and help people appreciate such beautiful creatures.” Stevie Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza, Las Vegas, NV, USA

“GOT YOUR BOOK TODAY AND I READ IT. I LOVE IT AND THE CHILDREN WILL LOVE IT. I HOPE EVERY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GETS ONE.” Eunie Smith, Miami FL

“What a wonderful, wonderful book! Published!!! Hooray!!” by Judy Ford, Iron River, WI

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