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Today we have a new picture book biography, Fearless World Traveler: Adventures of Marianne North, Botanical Artist by Laurie Lawlor and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander.

You may not have heard of Marianne North, but she was a fascinating woman. She grew up privileged and sheltered in England. Her father was a member of Parliament who owned multiple homes. On the other hand, her parents said she had no need for an education and insisted she get ready for marriage. Instead, Marianne taught herself to paint and immersed herself in nature whenever she got the chance. After her father passed away, Marianne began to travel the world. She made up for lost time by accurately painting every plant she could find. In the remaining years of her life, she produced more than 848 paintings, most of which she donated to Kew Gardens (see photograph of some of the display below).

Why is North's work considered to be scientific? It is because she advanced the field of botanical illustration. Her technique of painting specimens in their natural environment rather than isolated on a light background was groundbreaking. The fact, she documented so many rare plants with such accurate detail that several of them are named in her honor.

As for the book, Becca Stadtlander's lush illustrations are a fitting tribute to Marianne North's art. Readers will want to get lost in them. And Marianne North's story is captivating. Readers will want to visit it again and again.

Fearless World Traveler will appeal to a variety of young readers, including those interested in history, travel, plants, art, and science. Pick up a copy and join the adventure!

Suggested STEAM Activities:

1. Make a botanical illustration.

For inspiration, first visit the Kew's Virtual Gallery to see scans of Marianne North's paintings, organized by place and by plant type.

Gather some plants. Consider houseplants or vegetables, too. Note:  avoid sampling plants you can't readily identify because some plants can be poisonous. Also, make sure you have permission to gather plants. Collecting plants can be forbidden in certain public spaces, such as parks.

Examine the plants from a scientific standpoint. What kind of plant is it? Does it have any unique features? Identify the parts of the plants (previous post) and other details (inside plants post).

There are many instructions for drawing and painting plants for different grades or ages online. The video below has a nice introduction to botanical illustration and explains how to use plaster cloth to make a botanical impression.

The lesson is available for download as a PDF at the Blick website.


2. Incorporate scientific illustrations in a nature journal.

If you are interested in nature journals, speed over to the Exploring Marianne North website. Toward the bottom of the page they are currently offering a PDF booklet put together by volunteers. It chronicles some of North's travels, a wonderful mix of history and art. The illustrations are amazing!!! Caveat:  the text is in old-fashioned cursive, so may be difficult for young children to read.

LitLinks blog also has some great ideas about how to introduce children to the art of keeping a nature journal.

3. Make a leaf collection

There are many, many ways to make a leaf collection.

Plants and art are a perfect mix.


Reading age : 6 - 9 years
Publisher : Holiday House (May 11, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 0823439593
ISBN-13 : 978-0823439591

Public domain image of the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens from Wikimedia.


Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Looking for ways to incorporate STEAM activities this summer? I've got four fantastic suggestions.

1. At LitLinks, Patricia Newman invites guest authors and scientists to share activities and lessons featuring children's books that link STEM and language arts. For example, in a recent post I contributed activities to accompany the picture book, How to Build an Insect, including instructions for making an insect-related word collection and constructing a collage insect.

Full of creative and educational suggestions on a range of topics!

2.  If your children or students are verbal learners, they might want to listen to the Solve It For Kids Podcast. Each week hosts Jennifer Swanson and Jeff Gonyea interview STEM experts. Recent podcasts featured an expert on giraffes and a meteorologist. So cool!

3. Although it is held later this month, you can check out Pollinator Week website any time.

To prepare, hop onto their resources page for bee identification guides, puzzles, posters, instructions for building a bee house, and more. Also, check the activities page for local events happening that week.

Bonus:   The Tohono Chul garden in Tucson has a multi-day lesson on pollination that is wonderful.

4. Look for National Moth Week, July 17-25, 2021. To get ready, check the kid's page, which includes a link to a free moth coloring book!

We'll be posting more about this in July.

Do you have a favorite place to find STEAM activities and experiments? Please let us know in the comments.

Looking for a fast, easy STEAM project for creating insects? Try craft foam shapes!


  • Craft foam shapes (with or without sticky backing) from wherever you purchase arts and crafts supplies
  • Age-appropriate scissors
  • Markers

Have the children select shapes and put them together make insects. Older students may want to cut the shapes and add designs with markers.

Creations can be glued to paper or to a Con-tact paper window (see below).

Optional:  Add the insects to a contact paper window with frame.

Gather for adult to make ahead of time:

  • Clear Con-tact paper (found at hardware store)
  • Foam sheets (art/craft supply)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

Using the ruler to make lines, make square or rectangle frames out of foam sheets. Cut them out. Lay the frames on the contact paper (with protective waxy backing still in place) and trace around them. Cut out the contact paper, peel the waxy backing off, and press the contact paper to the frame. Retain the waxy backing and press onto the sticky side again if you are going to transport the frames (keeps them from sticking together).

Apply the insects to the sticky side of the Con-tact paper to make a scene. Add paper, pressed or fresh plant material if desired.

Optional 2:  Read How to Build an Insect by Roberta Gibson and illustrated by Anne Lambelet.