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

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Robert F. Sibert Medal winner

Bugs, of all kinds, were considered to be "born of mud" and to be "beasts of the devil." Why would anyone, let alone a girl, want to study and observe them?


One of the first naturalists to observe live insects directly, Maria Sibylla Merian was also one of the first to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly. In this visual nonfiction biography, richly illustrated throughout with full-color original paintings by Merian herself, the Newbery Honor-winning author Joyce Sidman paints her own picture of one of the first female entomologists and a woman who flouted convention in the pursuit of knowledge and her passion for insects.


Booklist Editor's Choice
Chicago Public Library Best of 2018
Kirkus Best book of 2018
2018 Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book

Junior Library Guild Selection
New York Public Library Top 10 Best Books of 2018

★ "A fantastic array of illustrations embellish the text with photos of butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalises, and lovely images of Maria's artwork and that of her fathers. Meanwhile, exceptional captions identify and establish each illustration's relevance to Maria's life. A vibrant, wonderfully rounded biography on a pioneering and prodigiously talented woman." -- Booklist, starred review

★ "An exceptionally crafted visual biography of a pioneering entomologist and naturalist who lived a life devoted to discovery." -- Kirkus, starred review

"A marvel of a book, just like the subject, Maria Merian. Reading Sidman's fascinating and beautiful account of Merian's life, we are witness to the miracle of a woman becoming an artist and a scientist in the 17th century. Just as a caterpillar emerges into the world out of its chrysalis, this book brings Merian out of the darkness and into the light."-- Deborah Heiligman, author of Vincent and Theo and Charles and Emma, a National Book Award finalist

★"An excellent choice for young artists, budding scientists, fledgling entomologists, and fans of biography."-- School Library Journal, STARRED review

★"Excellent reproductions of the gorgeous botanical prints allow readers to appreciate their accurate scientific detail and artistry."-- Horn Book, STARRED review

Joyce Sidman is today's foremost nature poet for children. Accolades for her books include two Caldecott Honors, a Lee Bennett Hopkins Award, the Claudia Lews Award, and many stars and Best of lists. For her body of work, she won NCTE's Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. She lives in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Target Age: 9-12

Clarion Books

paperback Pub Date; July 19, 2022

0.5" H x 8.9" L x 6.9" W

hardcover Pub Date: February 20, 2018

0.8" H x 9.1" L x 7.1" W

160 pages