The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science

"A vibrant, wonderfully rounded biography on a pioneering and prodigiously talented woman.” —Booklist (starred view)

About the Book


Everyone knows that butterflies come from caterpillars, right? 


Not in the 17th century, they didn’t. How would they have known? Metamorphosis took place in hidden places. There were no books describing this process, or Monarch kits to send away for. Caterpillars were considered pests, and no one connected them to the beautiful “summer birds” that sailed through the air.


Only a very sharp-eyed and persistent person would be able to uncover such an extraordinary process, and only a person with artistic skill could document it in living color.

That person was Maria Sibylla Merian. An artist at a time when women weren’t allowed to be. A scientist before there were scientists. An adventurer who journeyed far and wide in search of the truth of metamorphosis.

Dive into this fully-illustrated account of her life: bursting with art, history and juicy details. 

Due out Feb. 20, 2018!

News & Honors

Junior Library Guild selection

Booklist, starred review


*Booklist, starred review: 

"Sidman’s writing radiates Maria’s passion and curiosity for the natural world, and it is as absorbing as fiction. A fantastic array of illustrations embellish the text with photos of butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalises, and lovely images of Maria’s artwork. . . . A vibrant, wonderfully rounded biography on a pioneering and prodigiously talented woman."

A marvel of a book, just like the subject, Maria Merian. Reading Sidman’s fascinating and beautiful account of Merian’s life, we are witness to the miracle of a woman becoming an artist and a scientist in the 17th century. Just as a caterpillar emerges into the world out of its chrysalis, this book brings Merian out of the darkness and into the light.

— Deborah Heiligman, author of Vincent and Theo and Charles and Emma, National Book Award finalist

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