Butterflies have been known to inspire art, sculpture, a painting and frequently jewelry.
But in the case of one Los Angeles woman, a butterfly inspired a children’s book.
While vacationing in her native New Jersey, Karen Ann Smythe and her daughters rescued an injured butterfly just before a giant wave was about to pull it into the ocean. They tended that butterfly for two days, giving him the name Fredrick.
When he was well enough to fly again, Fredrick flew around the yard, then fluttered around the faces of the family members as if to say thank you, before flying off to join other butterflies.
That incident happened 25 years ago, but it often popped into Smythe’s mind. Finally, a few years ago, she chronicled the incident in the children’s book, “Fredrick the Butterfly.” It was published in 2015 and won a Beverly Hills Book Award.
“The story of Fredrick was bursting out of me,” says Smythe, mother of two now adult daughters, Julie and Veronica. “I had to tell that story. It had been in me for so long. It was burning in me almost. I had to get it out and let people know about it.”
But Frederick didn’t end there. He stayed in Smythe’s imagination until she wrote another book, this time teaming Fredrick with a cat and a teenaged girl.
“Amazing Adventures of Fredrick the Butterfly Plus Karen & Malibu Kool Kat” was recently published.
The adventures Fredrick, Karen and Malibu Kool Kat have in that book are fictionalized stories based on things that have happened in Smythe’s life, including going abroad to take peace flags made by local school children to children in Southeast Asia.
Smythe says taking the peace flags to Southeast Asia was an act of love and kindness, a small attempt to better world relations.
“Everybody wants peace and love,” said Smythe, who was the wife of late Hollywood agent Peter Turner. “I was so thrilled and bonded with all these people. They were jumping up and down and rejoicing about peace and love.”
The irony of writing those books is that Smythe is not a writer. She had rarely written anything more than an email or a grocery list before tackling the first book.
“It’s fun for me to do this,” said Smythe, who moved to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an actress. “It’s a job. I never used to like to write. I wrote a little poetry and drew when I was little.”
While Fredrick the butterfly may have entered her life a quarter decade ago, the real Malibu Kool Kat is her pet of the past six years. He was a stray Bombay cat she rescued and nursed back to health (much like Fredrick).
Expect to see Malibu Kool Kat featured in more books, possibly joined again by Fredrick. Smythe is working on her next book.
In the meantime, Smythe is seen regularly walking Malibu Kool Kat, a black shorthaired cat, on a leash in her neighborhood.
“I’ve never bonded with a cat like this; I’ve always had dogs before,” Smythe said. “Malibu Kool Kat has a live-and-let-live personality. He’s very humble and very grateful. Even if a hummingbird comes up to his face, he will not even attack it. He just looks all happy with it.”
Her books are available on Amazon.