by Joyce Sidman
160 pages; ages 10-12
HMH for young readers, 2018
Maria Merian was born in the mid-1600s into a family of printers and engravers. As a girl, she watched her father and apprentices carve maps and illustrations onto copper plates which were inked and then pressed onto paper. She learned to mix pigments and make brushes. And she fell in love with insects – especially caterpillars.
In Miriam’s time the silkworm was the only insect whose metamorphosis was well understood. But people still thought of it as “magical”. So Maria began studying caterpillars, keeping them in boxes and jars, sketching and making notes as they developed. She also wanted to know more about the connection between caterpillars and their food plants. And she did all this at a time when women were not allowed to study science. Indeed, many were burned as witches for conducting similar kinds of studies.
like love about this book: It’s about moths, butterflies, and caterpillars! What I love is that Maria’s story is told in chapters that follow the life cycle of lepidoptera: egg, instars, molting, pupa, eclosing, expanding, flight… back to egg. Brilliant! I love how author Joyce Sidman shows the vital role women played as homemakers, business partners, yet they were never given the respect or power of the business role. She describes the realities of publishing books and painting in the 1600s, a time when wealthy men bought and read them. And she takes us with Maria on her adventures to South America to study insects.
Head over to Archimedes Notebook for another bug book and some hands-on activities.
It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
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