for Summer Birds
by Margarita Engle
and Julie Paschkis
“Summer birds” was a medieval term used for butterflies. This inspiring narrative is written in the voice of Maria Merian, who was thirteen and living in mid-seventeenth-century Germany when she determined that, counter to common belief, butterflies did not appear magically from the mud but changed from one form to another before emerging from cocoons. Margarita Engle’s brief text manages to not only convey a wealth of factual information about butterflies but also a sense of the superstitions Maria challenged with her careful observations (insects were believed to be evil), as well as her soaring spirit and determination. Julie Paschkis’s lovely illustrations are full of small moments of nature’s wonders that Maria found so fascinating. A historical note provides additional information about the life of Maria Merian, who grew up to become famous as a scientist, artist, and explorer. (Ages 5–8)
CCBC Choices 2011. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011. Used with permission.
In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed. She watched carefully as caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths. Maria studied the whole life cycle of the summer birds, and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings.
This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.