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Reviewed by:
  • Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian
  • Elizabeth Bush, Reviewer
Engle, Margarita. Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian; illus. by Julie Paschkis. Holt, 2010. [32p]. ISBN 978-0-8050-8937-0 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad 5-8 yrs.

The stages of butterfly development are on display for any patient observer, but until seventeenth-century naturalist Maria Merian made those close and careful observations, people were more than willing to believe the "summer birds" were the product of spontaneous generation and, like all insects, evil by nature. Here Engle has thirteen-year-old narrator Maria challenge those beliefs, explain what she enters in her notebooks, and document what she sees in detailed renderings. Paschkis' paintings recall the lively color and exuberant detail of Merian's nature illustrations, and the fantastical creatures breathing life into the butterflies in underground cutaways will have viewers giggling at the misconceptions of former times. Engle's text is curiously terse and flat, though, coming from an author renowned [End Page 428] for her poetic works; since the title ends before Merian's adulthood, the book focuses more on plans than achievements, and children who want to delve into butterfly life have better choices, such as Nic Bishop's recent Butterflies and Moths (BCCB 5/09). Merian's anachronistic status as a female naturalist and traveler is the real draw here, however, and listeners who linger for the concluding historical note will be rewarded with a glimpse into the life of a remarkable, if lesser known, woman scientist.



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pp. 428-429
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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