Little Monarchs

by Jonathan Case (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

This graphic novel adventure tells the story of 10-year-old Elvie and her crucial mission to save humanity from extinction after a sun shift has changed life on earth as we know it.

It's been fifty years since a sun shift wiped out nearly all mammal life across the earth.

Towns and cities are abandoned relics, autonomous machines maintain roadways, and the world is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Isolated pockets of survivors keep to themselves in underground sites, hiding from the lethal sunlight by day and coming above ground at night.

10-year-old Elvie and her caretaker, Flora, a biologist, are the only two humans who can survive during daylight because Flora made an incredible discovery - a way to make an antidote to sun sickness using the scales from monarch butterfly wings. Unfortunately, it can only be made in small quantities and has a short shelf life.

Free to travel during the day, Elvie and Flora follow monarchs as they migrate across the former Western United States, constantly making new medicine for themselves while trying to find a way to make a vaccine they can share with everyone. Will they discover a way to go from a treatment to a cure and preserve what remains of humanity, or will their efforts be thwarted by disaster and the very people they are trying to save

Little Monarchs is a new kind of graphic novel adventure--one that invites readers to take an intimate look at the natural world and the secrets hidden within. Elvie and Flora's adventures take place in real locations marked panel-by-panel with coordinates and a compass heading. Curious readers can follow their travel routes and see the same landscapes--whether it be a secluded butterfly grove on the California coast or a hot-springs in the high desert. Through both comic narrative and journal entries, readers learn the basics of star navigation, how to tie useful knots, and other survival skills applicable in the natural world.

Creator Jonathan Case acquired the fact-based portion of Little Monarchs through intensive research and several expeditions to study monarchs across the western United States. Scientific support also came from the Xerces Society, the world leaders in monarch preservation.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

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For a postapocalyptic survival struggle, Little Monarchs is nothing short of a romp, vibrant with a sense of exploration, adventure, and discovery. . . . Case exalts science and its meticulous application and brings it to life through Elvie's journal. . . . and the painterly, nuanced palette supports the story's measured complexity. . . .

Kirkus Reviews

Elvie's special relationship with Flora, along with her quick wit, scientific knowledge, and careful observation skills, makes her a character worth following. Yet she's all kid. . . . Superbly written and illustrated; keeps readers breathless and guessing until the end.

Horn Book Magazine

Spectacular cartooning, meticulous world-building, and an arresting post-apocalyptic premise form the foundation of this exceptional graphic novel. . . . Case's ink and watercolor illustrations are lush, dynamic, and impressively consistent from panel to panel, allowing readers to immerse themselves in a believable near-future. . .

School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up--It's 2101, and a solar apocalypse has killed most of humanity; those who survive must stay underground to avoid getting sick from sun exposure. Elvie, an endlessly curious Black preteen, lives with her guardian Flora, a scientist who has found a way to turn monarch butterfly scales into an antidote to sun sickness. During the day, Elvie and Flora forage for food and supplies, study monarch medicine, and avoid other humans, who are either rivals or outright enemies. Hoping to develop a vaccine, Elvie's scientist parents have traveled to Mexico to gather materials from the monarchs that flock there at the end of their migration. They haven't returned, but Elvie believes they are still alive, so she and Flora set off to Mexico to find them, relying on a dwindling supply of the antidote to keep them safe. Case's artwork showcases the strong relationship between Flora and Elvie through detailed body language and expressions, and each has a unique voice. Excerpts from Elvie's naturalist journal bookend important discoveries the pair make on their journey and show her to be quick-witted, scientifically-minded, and intuitive. Vibrant colors spread from page to page, mirroring the monarch butterfly's sunset orange hues. Each panel is filled with detailed drawings and text, which at times overwhelm the page. However, this graphic novel packs a punch, expertly balancing science fiction with the looming environmental crisis, highlighting the delicate balance of every aspect of our planet's relationship with the sun and our ecosystem. VERDICT Meticulously researched biology and environmental science make this a unique addition to any library serving teens.--Elise Martinez

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

A gripping and action-packed tale. Bold ink lines paired with vibrant watercolors lend an ethereal feel to the sun-drenched landscape, providing a whimsical gentleness to Case's eerie, futuristic world. Elvie records nature observations and maps out her travels in her journal, balancing educational exposition with the ominous atmosphere of this fresh and timely apocalyptic narrative.

Review quotes

★ [A] prescient, thrilling, unusual and occasionally hilarious graphic novel. . . . Just about everything one might need to survive post-apocalyptic life on Earth is packed into these colorful pages. . . . Save the planet—read this book!—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

Jonathan Case
Jonathan Case is an Eisner award-winning cartoonist whose works include Dear Creature, Green River Killer A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen, and The New Deal, an Amazon Best Book of the Year which was also nominated for Reuban and Harvey Awards. He lives in Silverton, Oregon, with his family. You can visit him at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Margaret Ferguson Books
Publication date
April 05, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV029010 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Environment
JUV002300 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Butterflies, Moths & Caterpillars
JUV008140 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | Science Fiction
Library of Congress categories
Graphic novels
Cartoons and comics
Comics (Graphic works)
Environmental disasters
Monarch butterfly
Global environmental change
Dystopian comics
Pacific Coast (America)

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