Author Sarah Nelson holding her new children's book, Firefly Galaxy

The magical (real-life!) creature that inspired my book

Have you ever noticed that children love tiny wild things?

Treefrogs, dragonflies, baby bunnies, baby birds . . . baby anything?!

Perhaps tiny wild things are more visible to tiny people. A butterfly can come to rest in a child’s tiny, cupped hand. Ladybugs scuttle and grasshoppers hop among the flowers and foliage, where children crawl, walk, or play at eye level.

Perhaps, unconsciously, children also see themselves in the tiny and the wild. After all, children are small wild creatures, inhabiting a big, big world that’s ruled by big (not so wild) people. Perhaps for all these reasons, tiny wild things spark children’s natural curiosity and joy.

Illustration from book

Even though we are grownups, my husband and I had a joyfully childlike encounter several years ago with some tiny wild creatures of our own. On a late-night summer stroll along a grassy lakeshore, our darkened path lit up with a thousand fireflies, each one twinkling like a tiny star.

It felt magical, like we were walking through the Milky Way. I knew right away that this experience was picture book worthy and that children would love to imagine themselves frolicking through a “galaxy” of glittering fireflies. Soon, the story of Sofia and her family was born.

Illustration from book

Firefly-lit nights were not something I experienced as a child, growing up in a city suburb. Sadly, today’s children are even less likely to see whole galaxies of fireflies because fireflies are endangered in many parts of the world.

As indicator species, fireflies are extremely sensitive to their environments. If fireflies are struggling, it signals that something is wrong with the larger ecosystem. Artificial nighttime light, polluted soil and water, and the loss of trees and native vegetation are the biggest threats to firefly populations. In short, these tiny wild creatures need wild habitats.

The good news is that when we re-wild our yards and neighborhoods and protect firefly habitats, we are helping to protect myriad other species that also rely on clean, plant-filled habitats and dark nights.

In other words, caring for one tiny wild thing radiates out (like firefly light!) to the whole, big ecosystem!

Illustration from book

I hope that my picture book Firefly Galaxy will inspire families to explore the outdoors together. Just noticing tiny wild wonders can spark lifelong love and respect for our beautiful, shared Earth.

Children are already instinctively attuned to wonder. They see magic in a world where big people often don’t. Fireflies, in particular, may seem magical and otherworldly to both small and big people alike, but fireflies are not pretend. They are from this amazing, wild, wild planet. They are real magic in the real world! How exciting is that?


— Sarah Nelson


About the Author

Sarah Nelson loves summer nights and firefly light. Her lyrical picture books are often inspired by nature and wonder. Sarah’s titles include Follow the Flyway: The Marvel of Bird Migration and the I Like the Weather series, both published by Barefoot Books.

Sarah lives with her husband in Minnesota, USA where she teaches English and writing to adult immigrants. Learn more about her at


About the Book

Firefly Galaxy

Written by Sarah Nelson
Illustrated by Estrellita Caracol

“Glowing illustrations enliven this tale of nature’s delights” — Kirkus Reviews

Sofia and her siblings can hardly wait for nightfall — Sofia hopes to fill a jar with fireflies! When at last Mars flickers, and the owl begins to hoot, Sofia and her family venture into a dazzling summer night where firefly light is like a glittering galaxy.

Lyrical text and gorgeous collage artwork are supplemented by informative endmatter on finding fireflies and protecting their habitats.

Sign up for our mailing list!