The Blue But­ter­fly of Cochin

  • Review
By – March 11, 2024

In this warm­ly illus­trat­ed, emo­tion­al book, a young sto­ry­teller and her fam­i­ly pre­pare to emi­grate from their ancient Cochin com­mu­ni­ty by the sea in India to Moshav Neva­tim in the Israeli desert. Leah’s par­ents say they are com­ing home” to Israel, but Leah doesn’t want to leave the famil­iar tra­di­tions or sur­round­ings of Cochin. A blue but­ter­fly reas­sures her that the sto­ries of Cochin and the Torah will trav­el inside her. On the kib­butz, how­ev­er, Hebrew doesn’t yet feel right on Leah’s tongue. She miss­es the chant­i­ng sounds of Malay­alam, and the air in Israel is so dry. Leah is wist­ful­ly draw­ing the blue but­ter­fly one day when an admir­ing neigh­bor stops by and brings her to a grove of olive trees, where but­ter­flies gath­er. Her new friend tells her that, like the trees plant­ed by kib­butz dwellers, she, too, will be able to flour­ish and make this place her home. With the return of her mag­i­cal but­ter­fly friend, Leah now knows how to begin.

Orig­i­nal­ly from Buenos Aires her­self, edu­ca­tor Ari­ana Mizrahi cre­ates a nar­ra­tive of dis­place­ment that reads clear­ly and com­pact­ly. She reas­sures the young girl at the same time that she acknowl­edges her lone­li­ness and feel­ings of loss. In excit­ing, dou­ble-page spreads, Siona Benjamin’s illus­tra­tions reflect her own expe­ri­ences grow­ing up Jew­ish in India. Swirling clothes, danc­ing braids and leaves, scenes inside an ancient syn­a­gogue, and an invit­ing olive grove all offer a glimpse of life into mid-twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry India and Israel.

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she shares tales aloud in a local JCC preschool and vol­un­teers with 826 Valen­cia to help stu­dents write their own sto­ries and poems.

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