June 30, 2017

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 4:37 pm by suebe2

Summer Birds:
The Butterflies of Maria Merian
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Henry Holt and Company

Way back when, and no this isn’t fiction, people in Europe thought that insects were evil.  They believed that they spontaneously generated from mud as did frogs.

Maria Sibylla Merian was born in Germany in 1647.  By the time she was thirteen years old, she was well on her way to disproving this belief.  She loved to collect insects, especially summer birds, what we call butterflies. But she had to do it quietly so that her neighbors didn’t accuse her of being a witch.

Still, her parents encouraged her studies and her painting.  Maria studied how insects transformed from one form to another. She documented it carefully to show that this was a natural, not a magical, occurence.

Marian Merian is definitely a scientist that young readers need to know about.  She made her first discoveries before she was an adult.  And at a time when many women were sheltered by their families she and her daughter journeyed to South America to study and paint nature.  Why did I not know about this amazing woman?

Fortunately Engle has written a book that explains not only the beliefs common at the time that Merian lived but also what this woman did to push our knowledge and science to new levels.  The spare text is complimented by the art of Julie Paschkis. Her paintings reflect not only the history but also the natural world.  It can’t have been an easy balance to achieve yet she manages to pull it off using bright vibrant colors.

Add this book to your shelf for young readers who are interested in art and science.  Read it to anyone who is challenging the status quo.  Use it as a jumping off point for discussions regarding false beliefs, following ones dreams and making new discoveries.  This book is brief enough to read aloud but do have art supplies handy.  Once you are done, challenge your listeners to depict the world of nature as they see it.

–SueBE

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