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

Last updated Thursday, July 24, 2014

Author: Jacqueline Davies
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Date of Publication: 2004
ISBN: 0618243437
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2014

Synopsis: 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.

Note to readers:
•  A picture walk through would work well with this book.
•  There is a note about John James Audubon and his work at the end of the book.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What kind of birds do you see in your neighborhood?
•  What sounds do those birds make?
•  Do you ever bird watch?
•  Do you like drawing animals?

•  determined - having a strong feeling that you are going to do something and that you will not allow anyone or anything to stop you
•  crouched - to lower your body to the ground by bending your legs
•  commerce - the buying and selling of goods
•  tending - to watch over and care for
•  mayflies - any group of insects that live only a short time as adults and have fragile wings
•  lichen - a plantlike living thing that is made up of algae and fungus growing together on a solid surface
•  musιe - a source of inspiration
•  hibernated - to spend the winter sleeping or resting
•  naturalist - an expert in or student of natural history
•  broods - a family of young animals

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Where did John James live before coming to America?
•  What did John James like to do best?
•  What bird is John James observing?
•  What do you think about the scientists' thoughts on bird migration? Where do you think birds go?
•  Why do you think John James is tying string around the baby bird's leg?
•  Did the birds come back after the winter? Were they the same birds? How did John James know?

Craft ideas:
•  Have the kids draw a nest, and then draw and cut out birds to glue in the nest.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!