Becoming a Butterfly

Purchase Becoming Vanessa, written and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, at Bookmarks.

This story will help kids just starting school transform from timid caterpillars into beautiful butterflies so they can love who they are.

On Vanessa’s first day of school, her parents tell her it will be easy to make friends. Vanessa isn’t so sure. She wears her fanciest outfit so her new classmates will notice her right away. They notice, but the attention isn’t what she’d hoped for. As the day goes on, she feels more self-conscious. Her clothes are too bright, her feather boa has way too many feathers, and even her name is too hard to write.

The next day, she picks out a plain outfit, and tells her mom that her name is too long. She just wants to blend in, with a simple name like the other girls–why couldn’t her parents have named her Megan or Bella? But when her mother tells her the meaning behind her name, it gives her the confidence she needs to introduce her classmates to the real Vanessa.

Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s illustrations always invite the reader in, and this story will further delight young children nervous about their first day of school. A great read to pair a young child with a family member, older sibling, or an upper grade reading buddy. After reading, they can talk about what makes each of them unique. Then, create a butterfly with symbols or images to showcase what makes you, YOU!


  • cardstock in white, black or assorted colors
  • butterfly templates (optional) – (download PDF)
  • pencil
  • black marker
  • scissors
  • glue or glue stick
  • variety of coloring utensils – markers, colored pencils, metallic pens, etc.
  • optional – collage making materials


click images for larger view

  • Download the butterfly templates.
  • Print.
  • Optional – create your own butterfly! Draw the outline of a butterfly on a piece of white paper.
  • Think about what makes you unique. What are characteristics about you or things you love? You can choose symbols to represent these things, or draw images of what you love.
    • The image to the left symbolizes someone who is sunny and cheerful. This is more abstract than other designs you’ll see throughout the project examples – like the person who loves surfing and being at the beach, or the person who loves mountains and hiking, or the skateboarder. Enlarge the images at the bottom of the page to see if you can guess what that artist loves!
  • Draw the symbols and images with a pencil, then trace over the lines with a black marker.
  • Add color to your butterfly.
    • Use crayons, markers, colored pencils and/or paint.
  • Cut your butterfly out.
  • The next steps are optional, but add a nice finishing touch to the butterfly!
  • Choose a color of construction paper or cardstock as an edge for your butterfly. 
  • Put glue on the back of the butterfly and adhere it to the colored paper.
  • Cut around your butterfly, leaving an edge of the bright color you chose. 
  • Display your butterfly.


  • Instead of using coloring materials, use collage materials to decorate your butterfly.
  • In a classroom, have children share their butterflies as a way to introduce themselves to each other.
  • Make several smaller butterflies, with each one representing one thing about you. Hang together as a garland or make a mobile!



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