Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SUMMER BIRDS by Margarita Engle Kirkus Star


The Butterflies of Maria Merian

by Margarita Engle & illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Age Range: 4 - 9

Pub Date: April 27th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8937-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

It’s not often that someone is born both a great scientist and a great artist, especially if that someone is a girl in the middle of the 17th century. But Maria Sibylla Merian was. In a time when people thought that butterflies (then called “summer birds”) came from the soil magically, Maria studied these creatures in secret, lest she be accused of witchcraft. Engle and Paschkis tell Merian’s story with emotion and passion, capturing the spare voice of the 13-year-old narrator. They capture the patient precision that Maria must have used to collect her specimens, watching them in secret and then waiting for metamorphosis. All this meticulous observation led young Maria to document her discoveries through precise watercolors. 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. Young scientists, particularly girls, will be inspired to collect, observe and record their favorite critters. They, too, will imagine themselves growing up to follow their dreams. (historical note) (Picture book/biography. 4-9)