The Story of Louis the Loco
by Lucas Miller
This story is about the monarch butterfly, the state insect of Texas. It’s structured to get a giggle or some other response from the audience in nearly every paragraph and works best with children from preschool through third grade.
To aid in the telling, use the caterpillar and monarch butterfly puppets made by Folkmanis. Their big caterpillar puppet is actually a swallowtail, with black and green stripes. Monarch caterpillars’ stripes are white, black, and yellow so if you show pictures of monarch caterpillars, some of the kids may notice. Commend them for noticing the difference, just like a real scientist would.
As you tell the story, make the butterfly puppet flutter around and land on children’s heads as it searches for nectar and slurps it up. The Folkmanis caterpillar puppet comes complete with a little leaf that he can munch; pretend to taste (“yuck!”) in those parts of the story.
Display children’s books about butterflies and show pictures of monarchs. Seek out a book that has a picture of them wintering in the mountain forests of central Mexico in the wintertime; it’s an impressive spectacle! If you don’t have any books on monarchs, check out the Monarch Watch Web site at www.monarchwatch.org to find many fabulous pictures and resources. Photocopy coloring sheets so that each child has a keepsake to take home. One is available on-line at the Kidzone Web site at www.kidzone.ws/animals/monarch_color.htm.
To begin, show the kids a picture of a monarch butterfly and explain that the word monarch means the supreme ruler—the king or queen. The monarch is the “supreme ruler” of the butterflies because they’re so big and beautiful. But, as we will discover, there’s another reason they are the state insect of Texas.
Louie the Loco
Once upon a summertime, there was monarch butterfly. She fluttered from flower to flower looking for nectar. Nectar is like “flower juice” and she would find a flower with some sweet nectar and slurp it up! [make a juicy “slurp” sound]
After awhile she started looking for a place to lay her eggs. Lucky for her, there was a little boy who loved butterflies. He knew that mamma monarch butterflies like to lay their eggs on a milkweed plant, and he had planted milkweed in his garden.
Sure enough, that monarch butterfly found the milkweed and fluttered down and left a few eggs on the leaves. After five days, from one of those eggs came a very hungry . . . [pause to give the audience time to call out] CATERPILLAR!
His name was Louie and he started munching on all those milkweed leaves. He thought they tasted GREAT! But if YOU took a taste of a milkweed leaf you’d say, “Patooey!! These taste TERRIBLE!” If you managed to swallow a couple you’d be saying, [rub your stomach and look sick] “Uh-oh. . . I don’t feel so good!”
That’s because there’s a poison in milkweed leaves. People won’t eat them and neither will most animals, but monarch caterpillars gobble them up. Louie stuffed himself full of those yucky tasting leaves and soon he tasted yucky, too!
Of course, if you are a caterpillar, it’s good to taste yucky. Birds would look at Louie and say, “Don’t eat that guy! He tastes TERRIBLE!! Patooey!”
So, Louie didn’t get eaten by a bird, and he grew and grew and grew. Soon he was ready to become a butterfly. But Louie didn’t make a soft, silky cocoon. He made a hard, smooth chrysalis.
Louie stayed in his chrysalis for ten days and then he started to wiggle. [do a little wiggle] He started to stretch! [stretch] He pushed. [push] Finally, he BUSTED out of his chrysalis. Ta da! [throw hands up]
At first, Louie’s wings were all crumpled up and moist from being in that cramped chrysalis. But, slowly they spread out and took their shape. In the sunlight, they dried. Then he flapped those wings and took flight, fluttering from flower to flower, like his mamma had done.
A couple of days later, Louie woke up on the first chilly morning of the fall. Do you know what Louie said on that chilly, fall morning? [pause to allow the audience to respond] “BRRRRRRRRR! It’s g-g-getting C-C-C-COLD!” That’s what he said!
Soon, from somewhere deep inside, Louie got an idea. He knew exactly what he had to do. He gathered up all of his monarch butterfly buddies and said, “I’ve got an idea! I know this great spot down in Mexico. It doesn’t get so cold down in Mexico in the wintertime. I say we flap our wings and fly down to Mexico!”
All the other monarch butterflies looked at each other and they said, “Man, that Louie dude—he’s got to be LOCO, crazy! We can’t fly that far—it’s two thousand miles down to Mexico!!’ [pause for laughter]
Louie looked at them and said, “Oh, yeah? Well, you just stay up here in the USA all winter long! What are you gonna do when it gets really cold, huh? What are you gonna do when it starts snowing on your head, huh? You’re gonna freeze your antennae off, that’s what you’re gonna do!!!”
All those butterflies looked at each other and said, “We don’t wanna freeze our antennae off! Maybe Louie’s not so loco after all. Let’s give it a try!”
So, those butterflies flapped their little wings. It turned out they were stronger than they knew. They flew week after week after week. Millions of them made it all the way from the northern United States way down to the mountains of central Mexico. Some of them flew well over 2000 miles!
And, before all of those millions of monarchs made it to Mexico, they had to come right through Texas. You might have seen Louie come right through your yard in October! And, those very same butterflies come back in the springtime. Louie came through town again back in March.
As they return, the mamma butterflies look for a certain kind of plant to lay their eggs. Do you remember what kind of plant they lay their eggs upon? [give the audience a chance to answer] “MILKWEED!”
From those eggs will come what? “CATERPILLARS!”
Those caterpillars will eat and grow until they are ready to go inside their, what? “CHRYSALIS!”
And in about ten days they will wiggle and squirm and push their way out and be brand new—“MONARCH BUTTERFLIES!”
So keep your eyes open this fall and, if you like butterflies, plant flowers in your garden to feed them on their long journey south. If you also plant a milkweed, you might just see one of Louie’s great-great-grandbabies right there in your garden.