The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings by Avis Harley (2008) is a collection of 18 children’s nonfiction poems addressing the Monarch butterfly. Harley (2008) composed various forms of poetry within the collection, ranging from haiku, limericks, sonnets, concrete, cinquains, acrostic and more (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010). The poems beautifully describe how and what Monarchs eat, larva, the chrysalis, metamorphosis, migration, opposites, male Monarchs, wings, catching a butterfly, and many more experiences and descriptions (Harley, 2008). Creative language and poetic techniques are used within the poems, such as simile, assonance, personification, rhyming, imagery, alliteration, etc. Harley (2008) even includes a “Small Matters” section from pages 28-32, discussing each poem and its significance. Harley’s poetry is not only true and interesting, but also understandable for young readers, especially benefitting those within 3rd and 4th grade (Galda et al., 2010). Many of the concrete poems also assist readers in not only reading and understanding the material, but visualizing the experience as well.
Avis Harley is also the illustrator of The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings. The illustrator appears to use a variety of color with pencil and paper to bring the Monarch’s to life. The vibrant colors, blending, and detail allow the reader to not only read beautifully crafted poetry, but to visualize the butterflies as well. I would also consider the concrete poems to be another form of “illustration,” as Harley (2008) creates the image of a wing in “Chaos,” and the zigzagging of “Catching a Butterfly (1)” (p. 20;8).
As a lover of poetry, I found Harley’s (2008) work to be not only informative, but full of images that made me long for spring and summer. Though I enjoyed each poem, I was especially fond of the poem “Chaos,” in which the author contemplates the “butterfly effect,” and its possible implications; “’Does the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?’”(p. 31). The author captures the chaos of such a theory in the way that each idea is expressed one right after the other, lacking punctuation until the very end of the poem; instead of enjambment of just two lines, momentum picks up as each line takes off of another.
Avis Harley dabbled in many professions; she was an elementary educator, writer, illustrator, and mentor (Scholastic Inc., 2013). Harley also traveled significantly, being born in Canada, teaching in England, and having given presentations in both Japan and Hong Kong. Since retirement, Avis Harley has spent a lot of time writing poetry, including Fly with Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems, and African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways. As can be seen from the above titles, Harley enjoys writing about things in nature.
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
1. The 1st activity would involve the writing of an acrostic poem. Students would be given the opportunity to choose something in nature to write about; this may include ladybugs, leaves, clouds, etc. Students would then begin writing a poem using the first letter for each line:
After written vertically, students would brainstorm different phrases or words to describe the topic. A student might say, (L)ots of colors, (E)verybody jumps in, and so on. Ken Nesbitt (2011) provides excellent steps and examples of acrostic poetry on his Poetry4kids website.
2. The 2nd activity would allow the students to become “Poetic Technique Investigators”. After reading through The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings, students would partner up and search through the collection for examples of poetic techniques. Assonance can be found with “ground-bound” and “dainty…painty” (Harley, 2008, p. 16). Personification can be found through “the friendly smile of a watermelon” (p. 6). Students would be sharing with the class what poetic technique were used, and the definition of the technique. Though I do not condone any type of smoking, I found Harley’s (2008) simile/comparison of a Monarch larva to a “heavy cigar” to be quite creative and easily visualized (p. 16). Students may also choose to pick out new vocabulary words and define them.
Reader Response Questions:
- Are there any words or topics that you did not understand while reading? Let’s discuss!
- If I were an author, what topic in the natural world would I write about?
- Does the collection of poems help you to understand Monarch butterflies better? Explain.
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010). Literature and the Child (7th ed.). Belmont, CA:
Harley, A. (2008). “The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings”. [online image]. Retrieved from
Harley, A. (2008). The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong
Journey North. (2003). “Monarch Larva”. [online image]. Retrieved from
Nesbitt, K. (2011). How to Write an Acrostic. Retrieved from
Scholastic Inc. (2013). Biography: Avis Harley. Retrieved from