From School Library Journal
Grade 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
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Gr. 2-4. The story opens with 18-year-old French naturalist John James Audubon roaming Pennsylvania countryside in search of birds. In an effort to determine whether individual birds return to the same nests in the spring, he uses silver thread to band some fledgling peewee flycatchers. He observes them as they grow through the summer, leave for the winter, and return the following year. An appended historical note explains that Audubon was the first person in North America to band a bird and that Audubon became "the greatest painter of birds of all time," while a source note details which parts of the story are based on speculation, and an illustrator's note comments on research, inspiration, and technique. Sweet's mixed-media collage artwork includes sensitive pencil sketches and ink drawings washed with watercolors and gouache, as well as elements such as photos of bird nests and bones. A good companion to Jennifer Armstrong's picture-book biography Audubon (2003), which relates several incidents in the painter's later life, this handsome book makes a beguiling introduction to the painter. Carolyn Phelan
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