top of page

The Mystery of the Monarchs

How Kids, Teachers, and Butterfly Fans Helped

Fred and Norah Urquhart

Track the Great Monarch Migration



Alfred A. Knopf

(pub.5.31.2022) 40 pages

Author: Barb Rosenstock

Illustrator: Erika Meza

Characters: Fred and Norah Urquhart


" Young Fred Urquhart was fascinated by insects, especially his favorite, the monarch butterfly. He wondered where monarchs spent the winter. No one knew. After he became an entomologist (bug scientist), Fred and his wife, Norah, tagged hundreds of butterflies, hoping to solve the mystery of the monarchs. But they soon discovered that they needed help. They started a 'butterfly family,' a community of children, teachers, and nature enthusiasts from three countries––Canada, the United States, and Mexico––to answer the question: Where do the monarchs go?"

Tantalizing taste:

" Local people told of rugged forests filled with monarchs, which arrived late in fall and left in early springtime. Ken and Catalina [part of Fred and Norah's butterfly family] hiked the mountains west of Mexico City. On January 2, 1975, 10,000 feet up in the cool forest on Cerro Pelon, they found ...

Monarches, millions of them. Blanketing the bark of oyamel firs. Packed wing to wing on branches like orange leaves."

And something more: Barb Rosenstock, in the Author's Note writes: "In central Mexico, communities of indigenous and non–indigenous–identified people knew all about the monarchs in their forests. They celebrated the arrival of the butterflies around the end of the harvest and the Day of the Dead in early November. But they had a different question: Where did the monarchs come from? Finding the answers to the monarch migration took more than 4,000 amateur scientists, 300,000 tagged monarchs, 3,800 news articles in multiple languages, and forty years of scientific research. The Uruharts shared the sites where monarchs spend the winter (overwintering) in their Insect Migration Studies newsletter of 1975. Articles in scientific journals and National Geographic followed."

Barb Rosenstock has written a fascinating book -- a biography, a multi-country citizen scientist story, and a detective tale. I've had the good fortune of witnessing monarchs overwintering in California (not ones that are the focus of this book) at Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary in Monterey County. Stunning, truly stunning -- beautiful just like Erika Meza's lovely illustrations.


bottom of page