Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2018.
Those of us who are unfamiliar with Maria Sibylla Merian are in for a treat with this new title from Pomeroy (author and ancient historian) and Kathirithamby (entomologist) about Merian’s life and work. It is part biography, part botany and entomology manual with a healthy dash of history, and part work of art. Mostly, it is just beautiful.
Merian was born in Germany in 1647, and had the great luck to be born into a household of artists. At a time when girls where not educated outside the home, she learned her craft in the family’s busy art studio at home from her step-father, step-brothers, and their students who attended. Later, at age 13, Merian combined her talent and her curiosity about the natural world, and we still are enjoying the benefits of the results. Her highly prized work is still exhibited in museum and collections throughout the world, and has been used by scientists for centuries.
The reproductions of Merian’s work are rich and vibrant, while the interesting notes about what makes them important now and in Merian’s time give students context. The text is clear and well-written, but it is the visual elements of this book that really pack the punch. Also included in this title are portraits of Merian’s very large family; images of her surroundings at the time; quotes from Merian and samples of her handwriting (which are decipherable only by some scholars now); and maps and other primary sources. Also included are an epilogue, glossary, bibliography, and index.
While the text in some parts is a bit dense, students who are into bugs, nature, and art will love this title. It is one of those rare books that could be equally at home in the biography, art, or natural sciences sections of an elementary, middle, or high school library.
Dewey: 620 Interest Level: Grades 3-12
Reviews and Awards: None yet.
Younger readers might like: Butterflies and Moths: Explore Nature with Fun Facts and Activities by John Feltwell.
Older readers might like: A Butterfly Journey: Maria Sibylla Merian, Artist and Scientist by Boris Friedwald.
Fiction pairing: The Evolution of Calpernia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.
On the Web: This site from the Lannoo and Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag sells a new special edition of Merian’s Metamorphosis in sectorum Surinamensium 1704. Visit it for the short videos explaining the book and explore some addition information about Merian herself. Be sure to click on Google’s translate button to get the English version. http://www.sibyllamerian.com/index.html.
Video: What Bugged Maria Sibylla Merian? Find out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HObBdRBuV_0 on the My Girl Heroes YouTube Channel.
Merian even has a Google Doodle: https://www.google.com/doodles/maria-sibylla-merians-366th-birthday.