> Skip to content

Article  •  20 June 2017

 

Short story club – 29 June

Read the story being discussed onJesse Mulligan’s show on Radio New Zealand on 29 June 2017

Butterflies

by Patricia Grace

 

The grandmother plaited her granddaughter’s hair and then said, ‘Get your lunch. Put it in your bag. Get your apple. You come straight back after school, straight home here. Listen to the teacher, she said. ‘Do what she say.’
      Her grandfather was out on the step. He walked down the path with her and out on to the footpath. He said to a new neighbour, ‘Our granddaughter goes to school. She lives with us now.’
      ‘She’s fine,’ the neighbour said. ‘She’s terrific with her two plaits in her hair.’
      ‘And clever,’ the grandfather said. ‘Writes every day in her book.’
      ‘She’s fine,’ the neighbour said.
      The grandfather waited with his granddaughter by the crossing and then he said, ‘Go to school. Listen to the teacher. Do what she say.’

 

When the granddaughter came home from school her grandfather was hoeing round the cabbages. Her grandmother was picking beans. They stopped their work.
      ‘You bring your book home?’ the grandmother asked.
      ‘Yes.’
      ‘You write your story?’
      ‘Yes.’
      ‘What’s your story?’
      ‘About the butterflies.’
      ‘Get your book, then. Read your story.’
      The granddaughter took her book from her schoolbag and opened it.
      ‘I killed all the butterflies,’ she read. ‘This is me and this is all the butterflies.’
      ‘And your teacher like your story, did she?’
      ‘I don’t know.’
      ‘What your teacher say?’
      ‘She said butterflies are beautiful creatures. They hatch out and fly in the sun. The butterflies visit all the pretty flowers, she said. They lay their eggs and then they die. You don’t kill butterflies, that’s what she said.’
      The grandmother and grandfather were quiet for a long time, and their granddaughter, holding the book, stood quite still in the warm garden.
      ‘Because you see,’ the grandfather said, ‘your teacher, she buy all her cabbages from the supermarket and that’s why.’

 

‘Butterflies’ was first published in Electric City and other stories, Penguin, in 1987. Her latest publication is the novel Chappy, 2015.

More features

See all
Article
Kia Kaha profile - Hirini Melbourne

Hirini never thought he would become a musician. He couldn't read music, but he was good at listening and very dedicated, so he taught himself.

Article
Kia Kaha profile - Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia

Meri worked and worked and worked. ‘I’ll never give up,’ she vowed. She could see a better future for Māori women, and knew they deserved it.

Article
4 epic new YA reads from Penguin Books

Secrets, thrills, heartbreak, and adventure. . . we bet we've got your favourite new read covered!

Article
The 2021 Booker Prize shortlist revealed

The shortlist for the 2021 Booker Prize has been announced, with four Penguin Random House novels named.

Article
Te Wiki o te Reo Māori catalogue 2021

Kōrerotia te reo this Māori Language Week 2021 with our selection of Māori Language books.

Article
Kath Irvine's 5 favourite spring crops

The author of The Edible Backyard shares five of her favourite spring crops, why they're so fantastic and tips on how you can enjoy them too!

Article
Real Readers Review: Coastwatcher

Looking for your kid's next great read? Let our Puffin Ambassadors tell you why you should pick up Coastwatcher, a thrilling adventure novel for 9+ readers.

Article
Real Readers Review: The Memory Thief

Former British children's laureate, Chris Riddell, has said The Memory Thief is "Intriguing, exciting, everything about this story captured my imagination." But what do our Puffin Ambassadors think? Read on to find out!

Article
Supercharge your savings

Victoria Devine's top five tips to help you reach your savings goals sooner.

Article
10 must read books for children under 5!

Filled with adventure, inspiration and humour, these books are sure to take little readers and their imaginations to new and fantastic places!

Article
So you want to get published? The publishing team at Penguin Random House New Zealand share their top tips.

Why do I even need a publisher? How do I write for kids? What are publishers looking for right now? Should I send a sample chapter? Do you accept science fiction books?

Article
An important note from Megan Dunn

An unbiased promotional letter from the author of Things I Learned at Art School on why you should definitely pick up a copy—or two—today (without delay).

Looking for more articles?

See all articles