Red Butterfly

Illustrated by Amy June Bates
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About The Book

A young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this inspiring story told in verse, in the tradition of Inside Out and Back Again and Sold.

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has…but what if Kara secretly wants more?

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Red Butterfly is the story of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.

About The Author

Photograph by Julie DeGuia

A.L. Sonnichsen grew up in Hong Kong and then spent eight years as an adult in China. She now lives in Washington State with her husband and five children. Red Butterfly is her first novel. Learn more at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (February 2015)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481411097
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 830L

Raves and Reviews

"With spare, fluid language, [Sonnichsen] creates the endearing, authentic, nuanced emotions of a girl stuck between two worlds and brings to light a foundling's hope and determination. An adoption story that's rich in family complexities and that readers won't abandon."

– Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"Readers everywhere will empathize with and root for Kara as she discovers where she belongs and her true home."

– School Library Journal

"Sonnichsen creates a palpable sense of yearning for home and this heartbreaking, heartwarming, and impressive debut."

– Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"Sonnichsen’s sparse narrative in free verse moves Kara’s life along with deliberate sentiment, effort, and loyalty. Sympathetic readers will appreciate that Kara learns to build trust with those who demonstrate their compassion in constructive attempts to right some of the wrongs of her difficult beginnings."

– Booklist

"Both an individually compelling tale and an acknowledgment of the complexity of adoption..."

– The Children's Bulletin

"Red Butterfly is raw honesty interwoven with hope, as layered as life itself. This book deeply moved me."

– Carolyn Starr Rose, author of MAY B.

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Notable Children's Books
  • Kansas State Reading Circle List Starred Intermediate Title
  • Washington State Book Award Winner
  • Wisconsin State Reading Association's Reading List
  • Arnold Adoff Poetry Award
  • NCTE Notable Verse Novel List
  • Keystone to Reading Secondary Reading List (PA)

Resources and Downloads

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