Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

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*List Price:

$18.99

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Is this book about a real woman in STEAM?

In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed. She watched carefully as caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths. Maria studied the whole life cycle of the summer birds, and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings.

This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 12.09.52 PM.jp
Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 12.09.52 PM.jp

Author:

Margarita Engle

Illustrator:

Julie Paschkis

Publisher:

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Recommended Ages:

4 - 8 years

Maria Merian

Girls Love STEAM Review:

Additional Reader & Professional Reviews:

Engle, who has set many of her award-winning titles in Cuba, turns her attention to seventeenth-century Germany in this luminous picture-book biography of a girl who disproved centuries of scientific belief through simple observation. Born in Frankfurt in 1647, Maria Sibylla Merian disagreed with the conventional wisdom, dating back to the Greeks, that “summer birds,” or butterflies, were “beasts of the devil” that sprang alive from the mud through spontaneous generation. Engle writes in the voice of Maria as a young teen, who carefully watches the slow transformation of caterpillars to winged adults, painting everything that she sees, always in secret: “Neighbors would accuse me of witchcraft if they knew.” In expertly pared-down language, the poetic lines deftly fold in basic science concepts about life cycles, along with biographical details that are further developed in an appended historical note. Paschkis’ brilliantly colored and patterned paintings are an exuberant counterpoint to the minimal words. Swirling with vibrantly colored creatures, the spreads include whimsical references to popular superstitions of the time: in one wild, subterranean image, for example, a dragonlike beast lurks in the mud and spews butterflies from its jaws. Joyous and inspiring, this beautiful introduction to a passionate young scientist who defied grown-ups and changed history will spark children’s own fascination with the natural world and its everyday dramas. Grades K-3.
--Gillian Engberg - Booklist

“Top-notch writing and absolutely stunning illustrations tell [Merian's] inspirational story. A historical note at the end adds detail about Maria's life. Just right for budding scientists. Grade: A”
-- Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Bolstered by flat but elegantly rendered paintings, the award-winning Engle illuminates the life of an early female scientist. It all makes for pleasant reading and stirring stuff.”
-- San Francisco Chronicle

“In expertly pared-down language, the poetic lines deftly fold in basic science concepts about life cycles, along with biographical details that are further developed in an appended historical note. Paschkis' brilliantly colored and patterned paintings are an exuberant counterpoint to the minimal words. …Joyous and inspiring, this beautiful introduction to a passionate young scientist ho defied grown-ups and changed history will spark children's own fascination with the natural world and its everyday dramas.”
-- Booklist

“The illustrator's rich, gouache folk-style paintings, sometimes on a solid black background, share that joy in the natural world and with gentle fancy bring this little-known artist and entomologist to life.”
-- Kirkus

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