This is a charming fable written by a trained scientist and teacher, ‘for the child in everyone’ as the blurb says. In one breathtaking sweep, the author tells the story of a butterfly in its search for answers to two questions: “What stays constant? What changes?” These questions occur to the hero of the story as it finds itself changed from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly.
In the process of finding answers to these and other questions that lead from them, the butterfly goes on a brief science odyssey, as it were. It makes friends with all kinds of people and things—from river to rock to nightingale and, more lastingly, with a moth. They all teach her the nature or ‘character’ of physical laws that govern everything in the universe—both animate and inanimate matter. From the first law of thermodynamics (the law of conservation of energy) to aspects of quantum physics, the participants in this story describe one concept after another in the form of life’s lessons, without sounding pompous or didactic. The author has carefully avoided scientific (or even religious) jargon altogether. When the butterfly hears the language of religion spoken by the holy man, it is mystified but wisely says, “Some things are easy to understand with the head, but unless they touch the heart, we haven’t really understood them”.
Two other things stand out in this book. The warm friendship the butterfly has with the moth and the grief it feels on its death. The other one is how the butterfly learns about and accepts the fact of death (including its own) from a chance remark of the cow (“I just let go completely”). In the end, the butterfly tells the cow, “You have taught me the secret of Living, dear cow. As you enjoy your bath, so must we all enjoy every moment of this precious existence! ...Energy is eternal.”