Book Bag: ‘Señorita Mariposa’ by Ben Gundersheimer; ‘A Drink of Green’ by Leah Rose

  • “Señorita Maripos” by Ben Gundersheimer” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • “A Drink of Green” by Leah Rose. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2019 9:16:27 AM

Ben Gundersheimer is better known as “Mister G,” the award winning children’s music songwriter and singer/guitarist who performs in both English and Spanish. The Whately based artist, who has won a Latin Grammy Award and Five Parents’ Choice Gold Awards for his music, is also a former classroom teacher whose curriculum included songwriting as a learning tool.

Now Gundersheimer, an Amherst College graduate who has long performed with his wife, Katherine Jamieson, has turned one of his songs, “Señorita Mariposa” (Little Butterfly), into a bilingual children’s book. It’s the first of several songs that that the singer has agreed to use as the narrative for a series of children’s books for Penguin Random House.

In the story, illustrated by Marcos Alamada Rivero, an artist from Mexico who has created the artwork for Gundersheimer’s albums, monarch butterflies slowly make their way south to Mexico from southern Canada, fluttering over varied terrain and delighting children and a number of other critters — birds, bees, a possum, a moose — that watch them pass by.

The text, in English and Spanish, is aimed at readers ages about 4 to 6 and celebrates both the butterflies’ 3,000-mile journey and the diversity of the country they traverse on the way to Mexico; the warm illustrations depict boys and girls of varying skin color and dress, including a boy and girl in Mexico who welcome the colorful lepidoptera to their country.

English is set in a serif type and Spanish in sans-serif, with each line alternating between the languages, often in rhymes: “Then one day a great surprise / There’s a flash across the sky / Beating wings warmed by the sun / Can’t believe how far you’ve come / Algún día una gran sorpresa / Hay un destello en el cielo / Las alas calentadas por el sol / No puedo creer cuanto has viajado.”

The book includes an afterword with some basic facts about monarch butterflies, including their important role as pollinators of wildflowers and their thick clustering in oyamel fir trees in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico after their journey. Gundersheimer also notes that pesticides, habitat loss and climate change are taking a toll on the butterflies.

“What can we do to help these remarkable creatures?” he writes. “The simplest thing to do is to grow milkweed, the native plant that monarch butterflies feed and breed upon.”

According to Gundersheimer’s website, his second children’s book in the series, “Lilah Tov,” based on the singer’s lullaby of the same title, will be published in early 2020. Noted Israeli artist Noar Lee Haggan will be illustrating the bilingual English-Hebrew book.

‘A Drink of Green’

Latkes Linguini is, by her own definition, “brilliant, beautiful, and trapped within a body allergic to everything.” She’s also the narrator of Leah Rose’s “A Drink of Green,” a novel about a woman who tries to find peace of mind and body and ends up coming to the Pioneer Valley in that search.

Latkes’ real name is Lottie; she’s a Jewish-Italian woman from New York City and then the New York suburbs who is nicknamed “Latkes” because her favorite food for years was the potato pancakes of the same name. For years she was able to eat anything she wanted without gaining weight or feeling ill.

Then, when she goes to college, Lottie meets the love of her life, Jason McDougal, who later becomes a professor at SUNY Albany, and Lottie cooks delicious meals for him and his associates so he can rise in the department ... until she starts feeling ill all the time.

The novel follows Lottie to the Pioneer Valley, where she’ll try to find a cure for what’s causing her illness, and where she’ll also meet a handsome yoga teacher who may tempt her away from her marriage to Jason, who’s been offered a teaching position at UMass Amherst. Lottie will also cross paths with an old childhood friend, Dorothea Cruz, who’s now a martial artist and also becomes a potential love interest.

“A Drink of Green” is full of familiar landmarks, like downtown Northampton, the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst and the statue of abolitionist Sojourner Truth in Florence. That’s because, as Rose writes in an introduction, the novel is based on a true story, one that involves some aspects of her own life and that of a man she met while staying in a health center in Florida.

A former journalist who later became a yoga instructor and herbalist, Rose, of Amherst, writes that her novel “explores one woman’s inner reach for a life of true meaning with a high moral bar…. Like many of us today, Latkes Linguini struggles to maintain health and a sense of social contribution, engaging life as fully as she can despite the physical and mental stress of ordinary living, and her additional handicaps.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at


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