Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

It’s Friday!!

And it’s time for Perfect Picture Book Friday sponsored by Susanna Leonard Hill. For more perfect picture books, visit Susanna’s amazing perfect picture book page.

Title: Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

Written by Margarita Engle and Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Henry Holt & Company 2010

Suitable for: ages 8-12

Themes: metamorphosis, science, insects, butterflies, history

Opening and Brief Synopsis: ” Each year, the sky fills with summer birds.  Many people call them butterflies.  Everyone believes that these insects come from the mud, as if by magic. I disagree.  I am only thirteen years old, but I capture insects.  I study them.  I have to catch my insects in secret.  Neighbors would accuse me of witchcraft if they knew…” Born in Frankfurt Germany in 1647, Maria Merian began painting and studying small insects from a young age. Her natural curiousity led her to discover the scientific process called metamorphosis. In Europe people believe that insects that changed form were evil, but Maria disagreed. Later in life Maria traveled to South America and published her books of  paintings and scientific studies.

Links to resources: Nature Pavilion sells kits for raising butterflies. Each year our second grade students watch their caterpillars spin cocoons, and then they release the butterflies after they hatch.

Why I like this book: I am amazed that a thirteen year old girl was  brave enough to defy the beliefs of her people in the 1600’s.  She was lucky not to have been charged with witchcraft. That a young girl could see the beauty in the natural transformation of these creatures when adults could not fascinates me. I also like the picture book format of this non-fiction book. Maria tells the story in first person.  The illustrations are also spectacular and beautifully detailed.


24 responses to “Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

  1. Wow, Kelly! This book looks great! I’m having so much fun with PPBFs, finding out about all these great books I’ve never heard of! Every week I think nothing can beat last week, and then everyone does 🙂

    • Thanks, Susanna. I try to find unusual books that are really well written and illustrated. This book is actually cataloged in the science section of our non-fiction collection. The book describes the entire metamorphosis process for kids. I think that it is so much easier for kids to learn about science and other challenging subjects through story!

  2. I so agree, Susanna, this is a way for us to discover so many wonderful books. Kelly keeps on coming up with ones I have never heard of but that sound fascinating. What an amazing biography, and how I love seeing picture books for older children!

  3. This looks like a great book. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Catherine Johnson

    how exciting a picture book with a true story attached. Thanks Kelly!

  5. You are so welcome, Catherine! 🙂

  6. elizabethannewrites

    Fascinating story, Kelly! Wow, she was brave to stand up for what she believed… KNEW… to be true. This is so cool. I hope our library has it!

  7. I love it when I stumble across interesting stories like these! I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of her before!

  8. I’m shocked she had the courage to study this, too. Thanks for sharing this title and activity.

  9. fascinating story. will add it to my to-read list!

  10. Fascinating! Doesn’t it make you wonder how the authors find these types of stories in the first place? So many remarkable people in the world. I love biographies about lesser-known individuals who did courageous things. Thanks for sharing!

    • I was wondering the same thing, Julie! I really want to write a historical fiction PB manuscript, but I’ve got to find that “just right” story that will really hook readers-this one is quite successful! Guess I’ll have to do some research 🙂

  11. What an interesting story, loved her fearlessness, and her true believes. Great that it was captured in Picture Book form. Thankyou Kelly

  12. This sounds like a wonderful book. Thank you for sharing! The nature kits look really cool too.

  13. You’re welcome, Loni! The kids LOVE raising the butterflies every year-definitely an inexpensive and worthwhile activity for children (or adults!) 🙂

  14. I always look forward to the books you select. They are always wonderful I love butterflies, and love to follow the migration of Monarchs over Ohio each fall. Used to write about them. Loved the story line — I didn’t know that was how people thought at the period in history. Maria was certainly ahead of her time in recognizing the transformation. Love this book. Thanks!

    • I love butterflies as well, Pat. There is a biking trail near our town where we sometimes go in the spring-there are so many butterflies there that as you bike, the butterflies gather on your clothes and hang on. By the end of the trail you are covered with butterflies. It is the most amazing thing!

  15. “Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian” sounds interesting. I like history and science. It’s neat how they are combined into a picture book!
    Erik 😉

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