top of page

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry

Cover with 4 award stickers.jpg

Thirteen-year-old Emma Murry loves nature and art. She spends her summer in the community butterfly garden drawing and taking care of the monarchs during their amazing metamorphosis from egg to butterfly. So when she overhears Jeb Scott and his celebrity dad Chester discussing plans to destroy the garden to build a ski resort, she and her best friend Sophie quickly rally their environmental club to stop them.
But when a mysterious death threat is left at the Scotts' house, and her dad becomes the main suspect, Emma must team up with Jeb to investigate. She slowly discovers people are not what they seem as she tries to untangle friendships, organize a protest, and uncover the supernatural secrets hiding on
the mountain.

Emma will have to go through her own metamorphosis by overcoming her fears and facing what she dreads. If she fails, she could jeopardize everything—butterflies, friendships, and her family.

Editorial Reviews

The Book Has

“…a diverting environment-friendly mystery...engaging plot appealing young hero... Rebecca Laxton’s prose, meanwhile, engages multiple senses: “At lunchtime, the crowd flocked to the restaurants. The street smelled like hot bread, tangy oregano, and warm tomato sauce, making my stomach rumble.”There’s educational value too, as Emma not only praises nature, but also notes for Jeb (and readers) things that harm the environment…” —Kirkus Reviews 

Vivid Detail

"Writing teenagers who sound like teenagers is hard, but Laxton, drawing on her teaching experience, achieves this with aplomb. It’s easy to cringe along with Emma when she gets tongue-tied in front of her crush, worries if she’s a good enough friend, or faces her nerves over public speaking. She’s alive on the page, as is Black Mountain itself, painted in vivid detail like local soda names and a raucous town hall meeting.”

— BookLife

Lisa Driver, MI

Feels Remarkably Real

"Rebecca Laxton artfully intertwines the allure of small-town adventures, imbuing her narrative with a warm and inviting ambiance that is synonymous with the tranquil life of Black Mountain. The characters are intricately woven into the fabric of the town, fostering a sense of community and familiarity. The book is an invitation into a world that feels remarkably real, prompting the reader to step into its narrative sphere and be reluctant to exit. Laxton leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for potential sequels, and I can’t help but hope that she explores the possibility of further tales set in Black Mountain."

Literary Titan

A Dazzling Novel
"The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is a dazzling novel about a girl’s crusade to save a local mountain—and perhaps fall in love... The novel’s forward movement is directed most by the environmental club’s activism…they become exemplars of taking part in civic affairs. And in addition to these activist themes, the novel celebrates diversity via supporting characters including Spanish-speaking Cami and her brother Carlos; Stella, who started the Black Mountain Museum of the Cherokee; and Evelyn, a Black dancer. References to regional products, including soda and ice cream, mix with a blend of folklore and facts to establish a sense of local color. Still, while the book’s descriptions of the natural world are bright, education is often the primary focus. There’s information on the life cycle of butterflies and the potential damages of economic development embedded in this inspiring tale about fighting for what you believe in.­"­­—Susan Kamata for Clarion Reviews

Morgan James, NY

A Relatable Character
"Emma is a warm, relatable character who shares an intimate picture of small-town life and involvement in a cause bigger than herself. Emma’s artistic infatuation with color and light and the supernatural slant to her adventures add a touch of magical realism. At the same time, her developing relationship with Jeb offers a hint of romantic interest too. The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is a multi-layered, thought-provoking story that will keep readers captivated until the last page."—The Children's Book Review

STEAM Themes

“I love the way the book weaves together magic, modern tech kids are used to, and STEAM themes. It’s really masterful…The setting is just delightful. It makes me so happy to see the South portrayed in a way that shows off its charm.”Jeni Chappelle, editor, and host of Story Chat Radio 

Lisa Driver, MI

Perfect Middle Grade
“I really loved this story! It has so many of the things I love about middle grade—growing up, friendship, first crushes, learning to stand up for causes, and a touch of magic!" Hannah VanVels Ausbury, Book Riot

Leaves Lasting Impressions

"Gracie Laxton’s black-and-white minimalist artwork prefaces each chapter. These unembellished illustrations and silhouettes leave lasting impressions of such things as a howling wolf and a wheels-up skateboard."—Kirkus Reviews


Starred Reviews from Reader's Favorite, Amazon, NetGalley, and Goodreads

David Korson, Readers’ Favorite®

With an upbeat writing style, Rebecca Laxton crafts authentic characters that will make you cringe at the awkward moments when Emma meets Jeb, root for her friendship with Sophie, and cheer on her fight against a townful of opponents. In this heartening story of transformation, whether Emma is managing change in the community, change among friends, or within, she finds herself in numerous situations where she must adapt. The primary coming-of-age storyline is enhanced by an aura of paranormal mystery and a lighthearted romance, though neither strays from the book’s fresh and crisp, family-friendly tone. The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is an entertaining and rewarding book about personal growth, the value of friendship, environmental awareness, and standing up for what is right.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle, Readers’Favorite®

Rebecca Laxton has written a fun early teen novel that melds the beauty of nature, friendship, and science. Emma’s summer art journal reflects definitions that tie the book together at the end, and Gracie Laxton’s illustrations are lovely. The plot is clear, and the characters are so complex they could be real. Black Mountain is a real place, and the vibrant area and solid community members are related. Laxton’s words are especially poignant when one of her characters compares a monarch’s journey to a teen’s coming-of-age, threading the example into the book's title. The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is a great selection for teen readers who enjoy modern stories about friendship and the environment, and it would be at home on any bookshelf and in public libraries.

Nino Lobiladze, Reader’s Favorite®

This is a character-driven story and Rebecca Laxton creates many amazing characters. Emma has the mind of an artist and a very special vision. She sees those around her as colors, giving them respective and unique characteristics. The book focuses on Emma's character development, and we follow the unfolding events from her point of view. Describing Emma, Rebecca speaks about many traps and temptations a young person can encounter while growing up, and vanity is one. We see Emma struggling with contradicting feelings. She wants to befriend Jeb, who she secretly loves, but this new kid unwillingly threatens her friendship with Sophie, a strong-willed, down-to-earth girl whose role model is a well-known environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. This is an educational and empowering read. Rebecca explains the impact of monarch butterflies on the environment and our lives, sharing many incredible details about their life circle. Rebecca adds an exciting touch of paranormal to this wonderful story, entwining the legends of ancient times to the everyday life of Black Mountain. Beautifully illustrated by talented Gracie Laxton, The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry has a strong plotline full of twists and an unpredictable, thrilling ending.

Pikasho Deka, Reader’s Favorite®

Rebecca Laxton's environmental drama offers readers an enticing blend of mystery, suspense, and intrigue. The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry follows a group of young adults as they attempt to protect their local flora and fauna from being trampled upon by the downside of relentless ambition and greed. This is a particularly relevant issue for our times. Laxton's charming cast of characters and a plot flavored with a tinge of the paranormal makes the book an absolute blast to read. Emma and her friends make a formidable team with a clear sight of the goals they aren't hesitant to work for, and you can't help but root for them. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.


Emma Megan, Readers’ Favorite®

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is a profoundly inspiring book about friendship, werewolves, and keeping important species off the endangered list. Rebecca Laxton shares a great message about pollinators. This story captures the beauty and importance of butterflies to the ecosystem, people, food, and the future. It offers information about monarch butterflies and the environmental impact of their extinction to encourage readers to be part of preserving monarch habitats. I loved the butterfly metaphor about growing up, learning about the difference between a werewolf and a wolf-shifter, or the legend of Cuetlachtli. This fantastic book will appeal to nature lovers of all ages. It's also an excellent addition to any homeschool unit on butterflies.


Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Readers’ Favorite®

Rebecca Laxton’s novel, The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry, is a mystery with engaging intrigue and ghostly encounters, coupled with a passion for the visual arts and the plight of the beautiful Monarch butterflies. The story follows Emma and her best friend, Sophie, as they explore the outdoors, work to save the butterflies, and solve one mystery after another, including a rather ghostly appearance. The narrative and dialogue are compelling and intriguing, certainly very believable, and readers will instantly be wrapped up in this unfolding tale. It’s a book you can’t put down. As the two best friends expand their horizons, they never venture far from each other and always find their way back to the friendship that bonded them from the day they were born. The underlying art theme with creative comments at the beginning of each chapter adds an interesting visual element to the story. Overall, a great read.

Maria M Linn

This book has so much to love! Spot-on upper MG voice, characters navigating crushes, friendships, and family disillusionment… environment-friendly STEM themes…an immersive setting in a quaint mountain town…a spooky hint of the supernatural…beautiful chapter heading art. Get your copy—each purchase supports monarch conservation! 

Jenny B., Educator 

Don't miss this cute novel about friendship, community, and environmental awareness. As an educator, I'm constantly looking for novels that enhance our interdisciplinary program while also being appropriate for middle school students. This novel provides all of that without any foul language or sexual content. Two young girls fight to save their town's Monarch butterfly habitat from commercial development. In a wonderful combination of art theory and science, Laxton provides ample material to research and discuss with young readers…

NetGalley Reviewer 127501 

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is a sweet, heart-forward story of a young girl discovering difficult truths for the first time. Deep friendships are put to the test, a crush on a cute boy turns out to be more complicated than she originally thought, and her community is divided between economic opportunity and the preservation of nature. It's a lot for anyone to deal with, let alone someone Emma's age, but she navigates it all with earnestness and openness. Though I'm not the target audience for this book, I can see how it would be a great resource for educators, artists, and nature enthusiasts alike.

Sheri S. 

This book has everything a tween (or adult) would want in a book. Emma and her friends are spending their summer helping the butterflies by planting a pollination area with beautiful plants. When someone wants to tear down their area to put up a ski resort Emma and her friends know they have to do something. What follows is a story of fighting for what you believe in with a crush and a potential werewolf mixed in for added excitement.

The book also highlights nature and how important it is as the friends try to stop the ski resort from being built. This is exactly the type of book I would have wanted to read at this age and I enjoyed the book at my current age! One of the things I loved most about this book is the descriptions of Emma’s art. I could almost see the colors she was trying to match perfectly with the scene she was painting. The title is incredibility clever because butterflies play a large part in the book and Emma is growing and undergoing changes the same as a caterpillar does changing into a butterfly.

One Blessed Momma (Blog) 

A fun and charming middle grade mystery that was a joy to read. Emma is quite the character. She felt totally authentic for that age group. She has a great head on her and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. When Chester gets a mysterious death threat, Emma is determined to to solve the case. The writing style is easy to read and will definitely keep you turning pages. I think this is right on the fence of YA, so I find it will appeal to more than just middle grade readers. If you’re looking for a fun and cozy middle grade mystery grab this one!!

Busy Mom

This book is perfect for the 10-13 year old reader to bridge the gap between MG and YA (but adults will love it too!) There's friendship troubles, mystery, STEAM themes, and a touch of the supernatural (or maybe not-that's part of the mystery!). Highly recommend! 



Angela M.

 Such a lovely combination of art + environment + first crushes + mystery + activism. I don’t know how Rebecca balanced all of that, but she certainly did! The result is a book that pulls you in with its beautiful mountain town and keeps you interested with the mystery and major problem its young characters face. I love how the hint of young love is handled too, very appropriate for MG. Your kids (and you) will love it!

Amazon Customer 

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry by Rebecca Laxton jumps immediately into the intensity of the beautiful sunrise on Black Mountain and the drama surrounding the two main characters, Emma and Sophie. It does not end until the last page. The author has amazing ability to create characters that can merge the reader into the story as an extra character! The story blends the modern conflict of environment with the mountain lore aura of the supernatural. Adults will enjoy this compelling story with the same tenacity as the teenage readers.

Amy B, Educator 

Great book to use with my middle Grade Students. This book navigates teenage crushes, friends, and family issues in a way that is great for younger readers but also interesting for adults to read. We get themes of STEM, a bit of supernatural, and I highly recommend this great read. It is also a great read to Bring young readers a touch of YA while still being appropriate for young readers

Becky B, Educator 

A lovely middle grades story about friendship, trust, and finding your own voice. Emma and her friends from the middle school environmental club are on a mission to stop a ski resort development in their hometown of Black Mountain. The author does a good job of bringing the characters to life - they are relatable and authentic to today’s middle grades readers.

Suzanne C, Librarian 

Emma and her friends in the Black Mountain Middle School Environmental Club have worked hard to plant shrubs and flowers that will support monarch butterflies along the Greenway in town. She and her best friend Sophie even asked for plants instead of presents at their most recent birthday because they are so dedicated to preventing the extinction of the monarchs. So when they learn that a celebrity is planning to purchase land in the area and build a ski resort that will negatively impact the Greenway and the butterfly garden, they spring into action. Flyers, a petition, a presentation at the city council meeting…these teens are determined to protect the beauty of their town.

Middle school is a time of change - of metamorphosis - one might say. Emma and her companions are dealing with possible changes to their beloved butterfly garden and town, changes in their friendships, how to include new arrivals, disagreements on how to approach townsfolk to gain their support, whether to believe local legends or not, etc. The story captures that feeling of uncertainty, of worrying that friends are finding new interests or even new “besties,” and the flustered nature of first crushes. 

I especially enjoyed the way that art terms were used to start off each chapter. Emma is keeping an art journal over the summer and must create an image to exemplify balance, line, contrast and other terms. Those same terms can be seen at work within the chapters. For instance, Emma associates a particular “color” with each person she knows, while the girls learn that their fathers have different ideas of the “value” of the ski resort being built. This is a great book for middle grade readers who enjoy stories of teamwork, environmental awareness, artistic projects, and the ins and outs of friendship.


Celeste S

Laxton's masterful storytelling weaves an intricate tapestry of mystery, imbued with invaluable life lessons regarding environmental stewardship and the profound respect owed to the natural world. The characters that inhabit Laxton's narrative spring to life with vibrant hues, each imbued with a distinct authenticity that resonates deeply. The author's prowess in their creation and vivid depiction is evident, as these diverse personalities embody relatable traits that readily evoke empathy, particularly among adolescent readers seeking common ground within their own lives. Moreover, Laxton's skillful descriptions of the resplendent natural landscapes and settings provide readers with a sensory journey that transcends mere words, as the sights, sounds, and emotions are effortlessly channeled through Emma's artistic soul. Beyond its enthralling narrative and suspenseful plotline, The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry assumes an educational mantle, bestowing upon its readers a heightened awareness of the pressing need to cherish and preserve our environment and its marvelous inhabitants.

With its allure and eloquence, this entertaining read will leave an indelible impression on readers. It is a must-read for anyone seeking an engaging and thought-provoking experience while instilling a sense of duty towards our planet and its delicate ecosystems.


At its core, the book's title aptly captures the essence of its plot—an exploration of the transformative changes intrinsic to adolescence. Emma's experiences mirror those commonly encountered by teenagers: grappling with internal struggles, uncovering latent strengths and vulnerabilities, and illuminating her surroundings with newfound wisdom. Within this narrative framework, the author skillfully weaves together entertainment, suspense, and age-appropriate themes such as autonomy, friendship, romance, and resilience, offering young readers a window into real-world issues. By doing so, Laxton reminds her audience that within every individual lie inherent virtues that can be harnessed and nurtured to forge a path toward personal growth and resilience. The employment of first-person narration enhances the reader's connection with Emma, enabling a deep sense of empathy toward her insecurities and fears. Laxton masterfully employs teen language and expressive dialogue to facilitate a seamless reading experience, allowing readers to effortlessly immerse themselves in the story. The narrative strikes an ideal balance between descriptive passages and engaging dialogues, fostering a swift pace that propels the reader forward. Laxton's vivid imagery evokes a rich visual and imaginative journey, skillfully crafting scenes that spring to life in the reader's mind.

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is the perfect read for young readers, offering the dual purpose of entertainment and companionship throughout their transformative journeys.



Replete with entertainment and poignant exploration of the common struggles and relationships of teenagers, this book introduces a well-portrayed cast of dynamic characters. Through vivid and engaging dialogues, readers are invited to immerse themselves in the lives, problems, and relationships of these characters. As the pages turn, one can witness their remarkable transformations in the face of various circumstances, particularly Emma, who conquers her fears for both herself and her family, resolute in her quest to discover a more profound sense of self. 


The narrative unfolds with numerous twists and turns, expertly weaving a plot that is both intricate and captivating. This multifaceted tale encompasses themes of self-transformation, friendship, secrets, love, and adventure, ensuring that readers are constantly engaged. One aspect that stands out is the author's skillful writing style, characterized by its clarity and precision. 


Rebecca Laxton possesses a unique ability to draw readers into the narrative, regardless of their age, and the underlying theme of self-transformation provides ample food for thought. Personally, I found great enjoyment in this novel and recommend it to others seeking an immersive and thought-provoking literary experience.



As we delve into Emma's world, we become deeply invested in her journey, experiencing the highs and lows that epitomize the adolescent spirit of dreams, aspirations, and challenges. The author skillfully portrays the relatable nature of the main characters, fostering a strong sense of identification and instilling a profound desire to witness their triumphs.

However, the plot takes an unexpected turn when Emma's fascination with Jeb Scott, an Instagram personality, and his father Chester brings unforeseen complications to her idyllic Black Mountain. Initially elated by their presence, Emma's joy begins to wane as she discovers their intentions to demolish the cherished monarch butterfly garden, replacing it with a ski resort. Thus begins her transformative quest, where the value of community, collaboration, and the development of inner strength and resilience come to the forefront as she endeavors to save the garden from impending destruction.

From this point onward, the novel acquires a deeper significance as Emma confronts her anxieties, surmounts daunting challenges, and summons the fortitude necessary to defend her unwavering convictions. Skillfully interwoven throughout the narrative are the exploration of themes such as environmental preservation, friendship, family dynamics, and personal growth, all of which enrich the reading experience. Personally, what struck me the most was the seamless blend of engaging storytelling and profound messages, reminding us of the intrinsic worth of a well-crafted literary work.

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is sure to inspire and motivate young readers. It serves as a compelling call to pursue one's goals, defend cherished values, and make a positive impact on the world around us.


Navigating a labyrinth of twists and turns, Emma and her steadfast friend, Sophie, courageously endeavor to thwart this perilous undertaking. Yet, the question looms large—can they successfully challenge the powerful and resourceful Jed and his influential father? Will their resolve waver in the face of overwhelming fame?

Noteworthy is the author's commendable writing style, which is skillfully tailored to engage and resonate with the intended young audience. Laxton strikes a delightful balance between freshness and modernity, an all too rare attribute in contemporary literature. Moreover, it is a commendable feat to discover a book that embraces wholesome values and non-violent themes—a genuine gem in today's literary landscape. The characters spring to life with vivid descriptions, allowing readers to forge a deep connection with Emma, whose metamorphosis throughout the narrative proves truly captivating. Witnessing her transformation and the evolution of her thoughts is an awe-inspiring journey in itself.

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is the perfect read for young readers eager to embark on a fictional adventure brimming with love, determination, and unwavering friendship. This remarkable work not only ignites the imagination but also instills a sense of purpose, inspiring young hearts to fight for their ideals while cherishing the bonds of camaraderie.

Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Kids will love Emma and her determination to save the butterflies. They will relate to the conflict she faces when she meets her crush in person and believes she can change his mind about developing her beloved mountain. Add in a supernatural mystery and readers will be pulled into the adventure and won't put the book down until they reach the end.

Reviews from Blogs


A Blue Box Full of Books
The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is a very unique middle grade novel : it is the perfect mixture of cozy mystery, supernatural and ecological message. Rebecca Laxton’s debut novel takes place in a small town in North Carolina. The heroine, Emma Murry is working hard on her summer art project and does her best to help the environmental club save the monarchs. With her teacher and her friends, she is working on planting a pollinator garden to help the beautiful butterflies. But sadly, her projects are put on hold as she learns someone is planning to build a ski resort in the town and raze the garden!

The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry is a great story about young people coming together to save Nature. I really enjoyed how the author incorporated a double mystery to the novel : there is a supernatural layer with local legends of ghosts and a true mystery with murder threats. Young Emma has a very busy summer and goes through a lot of growth and transformation in the story. 



Ice Fairy’s Treasure Chest

Set in a small scenic town in North Carolina, The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry tells a magical and mesmerizing story about courage, friendship, human-nature relationship, and endangered species conservation. As members of the environmental club of their school, Emma and her BFF Sophie are committed to saving the monarchs from extinction. When some mystery guests arrive in town to plan for a new ski resort, the girls have to act fast to stop them from ruining the butterflies' habitat and threatening their survival. Emma's subtle feelings for her frienemy Jeb however, upset Sophie deeply.

Will Emma regain Sophie's trust? Will she convince Jeb to change their business plan? Will she clear dad's name after he becomes the primary suspect for a death threat to Jeb's dad? Will she overcome her fear for public speech at the zoning meeting? So many challenges and uncertainties are lying ahead!

Told from Emma's point of view, the story deftly combines elements of mystery, adventure, budding romance and paranormal fantasy. I'm particularly impressed with its poetic portraits of natural landscape, its creative use of color to characterize persons and objects, and the connection it makes between art and environmental protection. 

While Emma charms the reader with her determination, dedication and leadership, the inner struggle she experiences as part of her growth feels so real and relatable to adolescent readers who might be undergoing their own metamorphoses. Moreover, the novel helps raise awareness of the environmental impacts of human activities and inspires young environmentalists to stand up for their cause despite all the obstacles to collective action.

Informative and thought-provoking, this book won't disappoint if you love butterflies, wildlife, painting, gardening, skateboarding, or ghost hunting


Barbara Ann Moijca’s Blog

Thirteen-year-old Emma Murry plans three goals for her summer. Emma needs to complete an art project, perfect her skateboarding skills, and plant a garden for the migrating monarch butterflies. She is spending the summer at Black Mountain with her family and best friend, Sophie.

Things rapidly get complicated when the Scotts come into town with a plan to develop a ski resort that will endanger the eco system. To make matters worse, young Jeb Scott develops a romantic interest in Emma. She is determined to get closer to Jeb to derail their family’s plans.

The dialogue in this novel fits perfectly with the characters who represent coming of age teens struggling to find their own identity and express their interests within their communities. Laxton manages to teach art lessons through her chapter introductions. That is an unexpected bonus to reading this novel. This book covers topics that may be of particular interest to middle grade and young adult audiences. I learned about the ollie in the art of skateboarding and the world of the monarch butterflies. The elements of a budding romance and hints of the supernatural keep the plot unpredictable and appealing to a struggling, coming of age audience.

The book kept a baby-boomer engaged; I predict that it will be a page-turner for the targeted pre-teen and young adult audience.

bottom of page