Friday, April 27, 2018

Drawing Butterflies and School for Bugs

It's the last week of poetry month, so I'm celebrating with another book featuring poems about bugs. And now that butterflies are flitting about, it's a wonderful time to dive into a new book about a naturalist who used art to study butterflies.
themes: art, nature, insects

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's art changed science
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.

What I 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.

Crawly School for Bugs: poems to drive you buggy
by David L. Harrison; illus. by Julie Bayless
32 page; ages 5-9
WordSong, 2018

Welcome hummers, tweeters, singers, diggers.... 

It doesn't matter whether you fly, leap, or crawl, this school welcomes you. There's just one Very Important Rule: don't eat your friends at school.

What I like about this book: Each poem focuses on a different bug, imagining how they would respond in various school situations. For example: aphids in math class. If mama has fifty babies and each babies have fifty babies, how many aphids do you get? There's camouflage class, stink bug class, and what's left of termite class. There are cricket lessons, report cards, and a serious moment when grasshoppers discover a recipe book...
   It's fine to eat
   the farmer's crop
   but eating US
   has got to stop!
Definitely more word play than entomology, but a fun way to invite bugs into your day.

Beyond the Books:

Go on a butterfly hunt - with a camera or your sketchbook. Try to catch photos of different kinds of butterflies and daytime moths. Sometimes nature centers host butterfly walks or moth nights for the public. Then use a guide book or online guide to find a picture of its larva. Using pencils, paint, or other media, create an illustration showing the caterpillar and butterfly, and Maria Merian might have done.

Check out cool photos of butterflies, moths, and caterpillars in field guides or online. Here's a link to photos of Lepidoptera and here's a caterpillar guide.

Write a buggy poem. During "poetry month", poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has been writing one poem each day using different poetry styles. Find one (or more) that you like and play around with words to share what you know about your favorite bug.

Cook up some grasshoppers? Here's how... or buy some online.

 Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies provided by publishers.


  1. Maria Merian was certainly many centuries before her time. What a lovely story about a woman following her passion. Lovely pairing of both books today! My grandson would love the bug book.

  2. YIKES! How did I miss this> I LOVE MSM's work and story!!!!

  3. I hadn't heard of Joyce Sidman's new book, but one by her is always a cause to celebrate. I will get it soon. I LOVE Crawly School for Bugs. It is adorable. Thanks for the post.

  4. I'm not a fan of bugs but these books look really interesting. I used to draw butterflies and lions when I was a kid. So this post brought back memories for me. Thanks for sharing.

    1. butterflies are like the "gateway bugs" for people who don't think they like insects. Who can resist watching (and following) a swallowtail?