The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon

by Jacqueline Davies (Author) Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

John James Audubon was a boy who loved the out-of-doors more than the in. He was a boy who believed in studying birds in nature, not just from books. And, in the fall of 1804, he was a boy determined to learn if the small birds nesting near his Pennsylvania home really would return the following spring.

This book reveals how the youthful Audubon pioneered a technique essential to our understanding of birds. Capturing the early passion of America’s greatest painter of birds, this story will leave young readers listening intently for the call of birds large and small near their own homes.

Publishers Weekly

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies, illus. by Melissa Sweet, tells of the naturalist's lifelong study of his feathered friends. Author and artist portray Audubon as a curious and dedicated young adult who meticulously studied birds, their sounds, characteristics and behavior. Sweet uses a combination of pencils, ink and watercolors overlaid on several different types and textures of paper, and often incorporates photographs of fossils, feathers and more. A handsome presentation of this influential man's life. Copyright 2004 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-4 -This readable account focuses on a short period in the famous naturalist's youth. Audubon, who was born and raised in France, was sent to America at age 18 to avoid service in Napoleon's army. Living in his father's farmhouse in Pennsylvania, he roamed the countryside and observed nature. His interest in birds and their migration habits led him to watch a family of pewee flycatchers (Eastern Phoebes) that nested in a limestone cave nearby. In order to determine whether the same creatures returned each year, he banded the young birds with silver thread before they flew south in autumn, providing a means of identification when they returned in spring. Davies relates how the self-taught painter and ornithologist combined his artistic talent and keen skills of observation to produce detailed, life-sized portraits of birds "alive and moving." Sweet's extensive research is evident in her carefully crafted, mixed-media artwork, which includes photos of found objects, re-created pages from a nature sketchbook, maps, and watercolor paintings of young Audubon in the rolling Pennsylvania countryside. Students writing reports can find further information in Peter Anderson's John James Audubon: Wildlife Artist (Sagebrush, 1996). The Boy Who Drew Birds is a wonderful and accessible introduction to a man who made a great impact on the science of ornithology.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2004 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This winsomely imagined account of an episode when Audubon was 18 years old joins the flocks of commemorative works. Sweet's illustrations soar.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred

Davies related her story with immediacy, evoking Audobon's keen curiosity and the lure of the outdoors as she describes his gradual discovery of some important facts about bird migrations.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

This handsome book makes a beguiling introduction to the painter.
Booklist, ALA

Sweet's relaxed watercolor style and skillful incorporation of collage, plus a lively narration that illuminates Audobon's passion for observation and sets his pivotal insight into context, make this appealing vignette a fine introduction to his work.
Horn Book

Jacqueline Davies
Jacqueline Davies is the talented writer of several novels and picture books, including The Lemonade War series and The Boy Who Drew Birds.

Deborah Hocking has illustrated many children's books including Build, Beaver, Build! Life at the Longest Beaver Dam, The Great Henry Hopendower, and Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert., Instagram: @deborahhockingstudio.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2004
Young Hoosier Book Award
Nominee 2008 - 2008

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