Friday, April 1, 2016

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Picture Book Biographies from A to Z - Letter A)

All this month, I will be participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. On weekdays and Saturdays, I'll be progressing through the alphabet one letter at a time, reviewing picture book biographies. (Old School Sunday will continue as normal.) The challenge begins today with the letter A. My regular blogging schedule will resume in May.

The Boy Who Drew Birds:
A Story of John James Audubon
by Jacqueline Davies,
illustrated by Melissa Sweet 
2004. HMH Books for Young Readers.
9780618243433

Subject


John James Audubon (1785-1851) was an American naturalist best known for his book, The Birds of America.

Scope


The text of this book briefly describes Audubon's childhood, but then quickly makes the leap to his arrival in the United States at the age of 18. While Audubon works to learn English and find a way to earn a living, he also begins exploring his questions surrounding where small birds go in winter and whether they return to the same nest. The majority of the book focuses on the banding experiment Audubon does to determine the answers to these questions.

About the Illustrations


The illustrations are pretty typical of Melissa Sweet's work, which usually incorporates different styles, media, and materials. The pictures in this book are a mix of specimens, scenes from Audubon's life, and portraits of other famous scientists, including Aristotle. Also included (obviously) are many pictures of birds. 

Author's Note


There are four notes at the back of the book. The first is "About John James Audubon," which explains the significance of banding at the time of Audubon's original experiment. It also tells what happened immediately following the events covered by the main text of the book, and it is accompanied by a picture of an original watercolor by Audubon, depicting the pewee flycatcher.  The "Author's Source Note" and "Illustrator's Source Note" talk about the research behind the creators' contributions to the book, and finally, the bibliography provides resources for further reading.

Additional Comments


This book does a nice job of providing proper context for its subject matter, and it strikes a nice balance between telling Audubon's entire life story and highlighting his main contributions to his field. A young reader would not have a complete understanding of everything Audubon has ever done from reading this book, but he or she would certainly have a strong foundation of information about him, and a platform from which to pursue further studies on ornithology. I also thought the author chose really memorable details to engage the reader. For example, I was really surprised to learn that prior to Audubon's experiments, some scientists believed that birds flew to the moon for the winter, and that it took them 60 days to get there!


9 comments :

  1. I've never actually heard of him so thank you for that little story! (I think I'd need to read those picture biographies too lol)

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    1. Thanks for reading! I have to say, reading picture book bios is a good way to "meet" a lot of interesting people in a very short time.

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    2. Thanks for reading! I have to say, reading picture book bios is a good way to "meet" a lot of interesting people in a very short time.

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  2. I first heard of and came to appreciate Audubon when I read Gary Schmidt's middle grade book Okay For Now, I loved it so much I also read it to my then class. I think I would love this picture book!
    Kathryn Discovering Daisies

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    1. I loved Okay for Now! And I have a Gary Schmidt picture book on my list for this challenge, too - his biography of Martin de Porres will be my focus for letter M.

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  3. I couldn't wait for this month to arrive so I can get a taste for the biographies in picture book format. I didn't realize there were so many. Only knew about artists as subject matter. Thanks for doing this!

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    1. I have a few artists on my list, but people from many other fields as well. I hope you enjoy the reviews!

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  4. Can't wait to "meet" everyone this month! :)

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