As I began to read Chip St Clair’s book The Butterfly Garden I found I couldn’t put it down. It’s a story, you wish wasn’t true, about a little boy whose life was hell on earth. It’s a miracle Chip survives his life on the run with his neglectful, murderous monster of a father. He not only overcomes the pain, the sorrow, and the near death experiences, but Chip fights to put killer dad back in jail where he had escaped from, for the murder of a child. Chip then goes on to investigate this child killer. Was this monster, Michael Grant, really his father or had Chip been kidnapped? Chips birthday was August 1 it was also the day Michael D. Grant stomped, kicked and pummeled the two little Ingersol boys. Killing Scott age 3 and leaving Tommy age 5 barely clinging to life.
The book unfolds with murder and abuses so dark, the reader fears at any moment the child might be lost. I wanted to help him and I heard him say to me, “I have a terrible secret?”
In my mind’s eye I could see this little boy, with sad eyes and mousy brown hair, who would stand in a way that made him smaller. The pit of my stomach ached at every foul name thrown at him, when he was hit I flinched, I was afraid for him each time he hid and tears fell down my cheeks. But then I began to cheer for him as he escaped death; I was amazed at how courageously he went on.
Chip found relief by losing himself in reading, music and art. His favorite poem was Invictus by William Ernest Henley. Chip credits this poem as part of what saved him from drowning in Lake Michigan after his father had thrown him into the cold water abandoning him to drown. He was only ten years old and though he was a good swimmer at the local pool he’d never seen such deep dark swirling water. Yes, I was praying for him, even though I knew Chip is alive and well. I couldn’t help but thank God for saving this little boys life.
In a wonderful narrative voice Chip takes you into the life of an abused child beyond all imagination, escaping his childhood prison into his adult life, where he is Master of his fate and Captain of his soul.
In reading his book Chip St Clair has captured my heart and I now have the understanding of child abuse from the child’s perspective. Children innately love their parents and are confused when they abuse them - the children believe they have somehow caused their own abuse. Sadly at the cost of the child, many families do whatever it takes to preserve their "dirty little secret."
Chip now dedicates his life to helping abused and neglected children as founder and executive director of the St. Clair Butterfly Foundation that helps children heal through the creative arts and literature.
St. Clair is also director of the Michigan chapter of Justice for Children, where he has made tremendous strides in aiding children caught up in the nation's distressed child welfare system. He's worked on legislation with father turned advocate Marc Klaas and the Klaas Kids Foundation.
This summer put his book, The Butterfly Garden, on your list of must-reads. Make sure your library has it and the schoolteachers are aware of it. Become an abused child’s hero and help end the cycle of violence.
A video anthology of TV interviews by author and child abuse activist Chip St Clair, telling his remarkable story as background to his book, The Butterfly Garden (HCI Books)