The happy garden – best friends
Vermont Business Magazine Vermont’s official butterfly, the Monarch, will soon be returning to Vermont, and with it a new children’s book from best-selling New York Times authors and Essex residents John and Jennifer Churchman. This will be Churchman’s seventh book since 2015, when they debuted with their first book Sweet Pea & Friends The SheepOver.
As children’s book authors of the Sweet Pea & Friends book series, they turned their attention to the woodland animals that adorn their farm in their new book The Happy Garden ~ Best Friends. The book opens with a tattered and tired monarch butterfly returning to Vermont after its long migratory flight. Upon meeting Oliver, a carefree frog living in the garden, she asks for his help in watching over her egg. The story unfolds with Flora’s transformation from egg to caterpillar to butterfly under the watchful eye of Oliver the Frog and friends of the backyard and the woods.
During the research phase of the Butterfly Effect Project, the Churchmans came across a little-known scientific fact about butterflies, including the monarch. Despite the transformation that occurs at the chrysalis stage which breaks down the entire caterpillar into a liquid, memories of the caterpillar are kept in the monarch butterfly when it transforms. It was a fundamental inspiration for the story. The caterpillar that Oliver Frog befriended so lovingly and watched over would be remembered after doing the caterpillar transformation to his new form, the butterfly. Learn more about the study
The butterfly effect project
At the end of 2017, we were saddened to see fewer and fewer monarch butterflies around our farm in Vermont and had read reports of the endangered species around the world. Vermont is one of the last breeding grounds before the long migration south to Mexico and is our state butterfly. We knew we had to do something. Having a strong following as children’s book authors, we started a collaborative project with our fans on Kickstarter called Butterfly Effect.
With the support of our friends and followers, we have created a monarch and pollinator sanctuary on our farm by converting and dedicating two acres into a certified monarch tracking station and certified habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. We have planted hundreds of milkweed plants around fields of pollinator-driven wildflowers. Beehives have been installed and footpaths for future educational activities. Working with Monarch Watch, we have lifted and posted hundreds of Monarch Butterflies while documenting the process on our social media platforms.
We are happy to now announce that in 2020 we see Monarchs returning and our fields are once again filled with frogs, monarchs and pollinators of all kinds.
We always knew this body of work would culminate in one of our future children’s books and we have photographed and observed the storylines over the past few seasons with that in mind. With this story, we want to give hope to our youngest readers and let them know the impact they can have, alone or with like-minded friends, to change the world for the better.
About the author and illustrator
John Churchman is an artist, photographer and farmer who brings stories to life with his enchanting photo illustrations.
Jennifer Churchman is a storyteller, writer and multimedia artist.
The couple combine their talents to give voice to the stories of all the animals around them and add fun to their lives. They made their home on a small farm in the beautiful countryside of Essex, Vermont, with their daughter Gabrielle. They are the creators of The SheepOver, a New York Times bestseller, Brave Little Finn, A Farm for Maisie, Alpaca Lunch, The Easter Surprise, The Christmas Barn, and now, The Happy Garden ~ Best Friends.
Moonrise Farm in Essex, Vermont
Moonrise Farm is a ‘storybook’ and fiber farm in Essex, Vermont, in addition to being the home and studio of the authors and illustrators of the Sweet Pea & Friends children’s book series. The books give voice to beloved farm animals and their lived stories for Church members. Fans young and old love that the characters in the book are real and can follow their day-to-day “Beyond the Book” lives on Churchman’s online social media and tour the farm.