The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science
by Joyce Sidman, published 2018
“At the age of thirteen, Maria had watched, waited, and witnessed with her own eyes. And she had created a record of study, just as scholars did at universities.”
In this modern age, where we still struggle to bring art and science together, it’s great to be reminded of the past, where in fact they were so closely related. One of the earliest links was in the natural sciences, where one had to draw the observations in nature. And one of the earliest contributor’s was Maria Merian, a ground-breaking artist and amateur ecologist (before there was even that word) from the seventeenth century.
When a friend first told me about this children’s book, I thought she said, The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, also reviewed on this website. But they are worlds apart. This non-fiction children’s book includes the story of Maria and her discoveries, as well as an abundance of beautifully illustrated facts about caterpillars, butterflies, and other insects. The writing is clear and easy to follow. It is not overly dramatic, but factual, allowing us to study the science that Maria discovered on her own.
Spoiler alert- the ground-breaking science revealed in this children’s book is that butterflies come from eggs. “Duh,” you might say. But it may be fascinating for young readers to know that up to 300 years ago, people still believed things came from “spontaneous generation.”
This children’s book has everything going for it – exquisitely printed and illustrated; lots of insets with facts; and a great story of a woman who broke out of the mold. The book could be used for a science classroom or history, or both. And for children who have their own interest in insects, this children’s book is a great way to encourage them to stay with it!