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

Written by: Joyce Sidman

Illustrated by: photography by Joyce Sidman, illustrations by Maria Merian

For Ages: 10-12 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Trailblazers, Women in Science, Artists.

Summary: This book covers the life of Maria Merian, trailblazing scientific illustrator born in 1647. When she was 13, Maria became fascinated by insects and cocoons. Her family owned a printshop but women during this time were not allowed to do much outside of traditional household tasks. When finished with her household tasks, she shadowed her stepfather as an apprentice and learned how to mix paints as well as select natural objects for still life paintings. During this time, Maria also learned to paint and began to study the transformation that caterpillars undertake to become butterflies. This book goes very in-depth about all of Merian’s achievements throughout her life and global travels.  Illustrations within the book are Merian’s herself, as well as some photographs taken by the author.  This is a story of triumph as well as independence.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think Maria was so determined to keep doing what she loved when others told her she shouldn’t?
  • Has anyone ever said that you should or shouldn’t do something just because of your gender?
  • How can you have enough courage to follow your own dreams?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn about other trailblazing scientists like Marie Curie or Jane Goodall.  What interests you about being a scientist?
  • Sign up for Skype A Scientist and talk to real scientists all over the globe!
  • Make your own scientific illustrations about a natural subject you’re passionate about. Spider webs, flowers, mushrooms, whatever you like looking at!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

joyce sidmanJoyce Sidman is the winner of the 2013 NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry, which is given every two years to a living American poet in recognition of his or her aggregate work. She is the author of many award-winning children’s poetry books, including the Newbery Honor-winning Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, and two Caldecott Honor books: Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (also a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winner) and Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors (which won the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award). She teaches poetry writing to school children and participates in many national poetry events. Her recent book, What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings, has been critically acclaimed and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Joyce lives with her husband and dog near a large woodland in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Maria_Sibylla_MerianMaria Sibylla Merian was a Swiss naturalist and artist living and working in the seventeenth century. She excelled in both endeavours. One of her principal claims to fame is that she is one of the first naturalists to have studied insects. She recorded and illustrated the life cycles of 186 insect species.
Her evidence documented the nature of metamorphosis and contradicted contemporary ideas about how insects developed. She also discovered unknown animals and insects in the interior of Surinam. Her classification of butterflies and moths is still used today. She also undertook scientific expeditions at a time when these were unusual and normally undertaken by men only.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s