Young Maria Merian had a passion for butterflies and moths that led to a lifelong, convention-defining career of natural-history illustration.

When the young artist was growing up in 17th-century Germany, butterflies and moths were thought to arise through spontaneous generation and women interested in insects might be seen as witches. Still, Maria not only painted the insects she saw around her, she brought home silkworms and studied them, watching their metamorphosis and painting what she saw, including their favorite plants and flowers. Continuing to observe and paint from nature in her adult life, she also taught and published books of her illustrations, raised a family, and traveled as far as Suriname to explore the natural world. In contrast to Margarita Engle and Julie Paschkis’ Summer Birds (2010), in which a first-person narrative captures Maria’s childhood voice and joy in the natural world and the illustrations demonstrate the culture’s changing approach to nature, Marsh and Vanzo present a more distant, staid story for young readers. Vanzo’s illustrations, drawn with pencil and digitally colored, are modestly realistic, more so for the insects than humans (all white, including in Suriname). Sadly, the monarch butterflies that intrigue freckle-faced Maria in these images don’t exist in Germany. Even the title is unfortunate: Butterflies and moths are not bugs. An author’s note provides further information about this early naturalist. A few of the artist’s original illustrations are included and sourced, but no sources are given for other information.

Let this one fly away. (Picture book/biography. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-9257-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups.


From the First Discoveries series

A photo album of young wolves running, playing, and growing through their first year.

Light on factual details, the uncredited text largely runs to vague observations along the lines of the fact that “young wolves need to rest every now and then” or that packs “differ in size. Some are large and have many wolves, while others are small with only a few.” The chief draws here are the big, color, stock photos, which show pups of diverse ages and species, singly or in groups—running, posing alertly with parents or other adult wolves, eating (regurgitated food only, and that not visible), howling, patrolling, and snoozing as a seasonal round turns green meadows to snowy landscapes. In a notably perfunctory insertion squeezed onto the final spread, a wildlife biologist from the American Museum of Natural History introduces himself and describes his research work—all with animals other than wolves. Budding naturalists should have no trouble running down more nourishing fare, from Seymour Simon’s Wolves (1993) to Jonathan London’s Seasons of Little Wolf (illustrated by Jon Van Zyle, 2014) and on. Baby Dolphin’s First Swim follows the same formula even down to profiling exactly the same wildlife biologist.

A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2237-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Good advice and good reading practice rolled into one.


From the My First series

Kitten care presented early-reader style.

“Something soft and furry / Is coming home with me. // It is my new kitten. / She is as sweet as can be!” First-person, easy-reading text describes meeting the kitten, feeding the kitten, playing with the kitten, then taking it to the vet and keeping it safe. The first half of this volume is presented in rhyme with Wachter's photos of real children of various races and their kittens (always the same kitten-and-child pairings) imposed on simple cartoon backgrounds. On other pages, photos of kittens (all cute as the dickens) leaping, scratching, running, and sleeping appear against similar backgrounds. The second half reiterates the same information but in more detail. It passes on instructions in simple language for tasks like introducing a kitten to its litter box and interpreting the sounds and body language of your new furry friend. Jumping the species barrier, Biscuit creator Capucilli does a fine job of instructing young, new pet owners in the care of their wee feline friends in this companion to My First Puppy (2019). This helpful guidebook ends with a message encouraging aspiring young pet friends to adopt from shelters. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-12-inch double-page spreads viewed at 85.7% of actual size.)

Good advice and good reading practice rolled into one. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7754-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon Spotlight

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet