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The Butterfly Magician

Written By John Eames

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The Butterfly Magician was written as a tribute to the remarkable work undertaken by Clive Farrell to preserve butterfly species across the globe. Described as ‘The Lord of the Butterflies’ by both The Independent and The Guardian, Clive has not only established a number of Butterfly Farms in the UK and across the world, he also breeds 5,000 butterflies per week at his Ranch in Belize – an enterprise which is the mainstay of the local economy there. Hardly surprising then that Sir David Attenborough turned to Clive for specimens to display on his programme ‘Wildlife on One’.

Clive is inspired in part by his love of these beautiful creatures and in part by his strong sense of the significance of butterflies to the world’s eco-system. He is alarmed that there are only 60 species of British butterflies still in existence and that 98% of our butterfly meadows have been lost.

Nicola, who has done the wonderful illustrations for this book, met Clive by chance whilst selling copies of our first book, The Magic Makers at a Sherborne book fair. Clive bought a copy, read it and asked if we would be willing to write an illustrated story about leafcutter ants, giving it a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland narrative. He thought I was the right person to write the story because of my “quirky mind”, as he expressed it!

The remarkable leafcutter ant is another of Clive’s enthusiasms and he has a large colony of them at his Butterfly Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon. With Clive’s generous assistance, Leafcutter arrived on bookshelves several months later.

For some time, I had wanted to write a follow-up to The Magic Makers and, after my meetings with Clive, I knew it had to be about butterflies. I called my Magician ‘Adonis’ because I knew that the Adonis Blue was one of Clive’s favourites – and it’s a great name for a Magician.

I’d often thought that autumn leaves resembled the ‘skeletons’ of butterflies and decided to incorporate this idea in the poem. Adonis collects the leaves and drops them into a magical concoction where they take on colour. His assistant, Anemone, retrieves the coloured leaves, mutters a magic spell and then hangs them up to dry. After that, they are paired and stitched together to become beautiful butterflies.

A Butterfly Parade follows – then a Butterfly Ball – before the butterflies take a nap and are ultimately released into the air by the Magician Adonis. This was my way of thanking Clive for preserving the species and, of course, it is he who is the real Butterfly Magician.

How lucky I am to have Nicola to research into all of the species mentioned and give them life in her wonderful illustrations. I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do and, naturally, I hope you enjoy my quirky narrative!

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