The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

Reviewed by Diane Basting (Library Staff)

Maria Merian lived in the 1600’s and was fascinated with butterflies, then called summer birds, and other insects. She longed to find out where they came from and how the different pieces came together, which she saw while out collecting still life flower arrangements for her father. Growing up in the house of an artist and engraver gave Maria an early introduction to art and observation that would eventually lead to amazing works of art and science that are still referenced to this day. Natural science at the time was just beginning to form and gain recognition as a valid science for men to be a part of; it was unheard of and considered unnatural for a woman to be interested in bugs, science, or to publish her own works. Lucky for us, Maria never allowed that to stand in her way. She was clever, talented, and brave enough to use those traits to publish sketches of her observations in such a way that her first book was a best seller and even went on to a second printing, unheard of at the time. Maria’s steadfast determination and grace under fire shines through in this biography.

I can’t say enough good things about the elegantly engaging book. Maria Merian’s story wasn’t one I knew anything about until I picked up this story and in under a hundred pages Joyce Sidman made her come alive. A combination of illustrations, side notes, and direct quotes adds to the depth of the story without inundating you with dry disconnected facts.

Located in Children’s Nonfiction (J 921 MERIAN)

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