As the weather gets colder and birds fly south, you may begin to notice different types of birds outside your window. Colder weather seems to be the best time for us to see a wider variety of birds at our feeders as some of them are migrating and the ones that are left are looking for food. If you have any bird lovers in your house, they need to read The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon.
This is one of those picture books that everyone in the family (including mom and dad!) can learn from and enjoy. Jacqueline Davies tells the story of how John James Audubon, who was not a good student in school, used his knowledge of the natural world to prove that small birds migrate. When Audubon was young, most scientists still agreed with Aristotle’s 2000 year old theory that small birds hibernated “under water or in hollow logs” instead of migrating. Other scientists felt that birds would change into another type of bird during the winter and then back to its original form in the spring. Audubon patiently watched a bird family until he was able to get close enough to them to tie thread onto their legs—thus becoming the first person in North America to band a bird. The next spring the same birds returned to the area, still sporting their threads! Davies includes more information about John James Audubon and the practice of homing at the end of the story along with an author’s note and a bibliography for those who might want to learn more.
Melissa Sweet’s pictures are simply gorgeous. According to the illustrator’s note, she used “watercolors and gouache, pen and ink, and collage” to create the images. Each illustration is perfectly tailored to the accompanying text. When Davies write about Audubon’s museum in his room, Sweet has included photographs of birds’ nests, feathers, and other found objects along with sketches and notes similar to those Audubon might have made for his collection. The page explaining the (now ridiculous sounding) scientific theories of the time is decorated with old-fashioned people sharing these ideas in word bubbles. The pictures are colorful and engaging and really make this interesting story into a great book.
This would be a great book to use when learning about birds or when learning about the scientific method. Or, if you like, Homeschool Share has an entire Level 3 unit on The Boy Who Drew Birds—right there for you for free! No matter how you choose to use this book, I know you’re going to enjoy it!