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Audubon, On The Wings Of The World Hardcover – April 4, 2017
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A creative reimagining of the life of a man obsessed with the American wilderness and a reminder of a time, long gone, in which birds were so plentiful that the sky went dark when they passed.
―Christoph Irmscher, author of The Poetics of Natural History
With soft illustrations and introspective dialogue, Audubon: On the Wings of the World guides you through his obsessive quest to gather knowledge on North America’s avians.
Grolleau & Royer have created a beautiful tribute to one of America’s first voices for conservation. For any student of history or lover of the natural world, setting aside an hour or two to experience this book will be well worth the time.
―Historical Novel Society
Expressive design and subtle color impart the wonder of natural discoveries on the page, accompanying a sometimes nonlinear account of his life. Royer’s art holds a mirror to nature that’s both idealized and surreal. […] it’s easy to empathize with the rapture at nature as portrayed in the lush, strange beauty of these pages.
Environmentalists, artists, and birders will find this volume enchanting and affecting.
This handsome historical hardcover gives a stunning portrait of the American wilderness in the early 1800s while reminding us what artists may suffer when driven by creativity, as well as the sacrifices of those around them.
―School Library Journal
Everything feels rich and strange and unrestricted, much like the continent must have felt in the early 19th century, when Audubon set out on his journeys. In other words, On the Wings of the World wants to do cataract surgery on your impressions of the time, the place and central figure, and it succeeds beautifully.
What makes this book such a fascinating read is instead of glorifying a person that was unarguably a passionate and expressive artist, it unflinchingly describes a man that was clearly a product of his time.
Grolleau and Royer present the life of a very flawed person whose extreme efforts made lasting impact and leave you with plenty to think about regarding conservation as well as the nature of art.
Audubon: On the Wings of the World is a fascinating and extraordinary life story, highly recommended especially for public library graphic novel collections.
―Midwest Book Review
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Thanks to reading Nancy Plain's biography of Audubon, I knew what to expect going into this. I think his artwork is incredible, and this focuses on that. As a man, he was an awful husband and father. They actually gloss over a lot of Audubon's failings as a father and husband in this version. (He really put his art first, was horrible with money, and his wife was probably the most patient woman on the planet to wait for him and keep the family going in all his absences.) They also don't cover half of the challenge of getting his book to print, or that his entire family helped get it to print in England. So I definitely suggest reading Plain's book if you want more details (she also explains why he killed so many of his painting subjects which this doesn't really address). As an intro to the artist and an amazing piece of artwork, though, this does the job.
Notes on content: Maybe three mild swear words. There are three illustrations of women with naked chests (two of a Native American woman, and one in a dream that's supposed to be Mother Nature or something similar). (I easily gave them Sharpie bikinis so I could put this on the school shelves.) Audubon was known as a horrid flirt, but this glosses over that largely though some young women come to him in the nightgowns and demand that he sketch them (they keep clothes on thankfully). Some animal deaths are depicted on page including one dissection. Some men try to rob Audubon at one point and one of the robbers may or may not have been seriously hurt (no blood shown).
I love the art in this book, and the storytelling is really interesting and complex. The narration is non-linear, and the story is conveyed through both pictures and words, so neither can be expected to do the whole job. It is not a book for small children, so if you are new to graphic novels, don't assume because it looks like a "cartoon" that it is fine for kids; even if the content were fine, a child would have a hard time following the story.
It was really fun to imagine the country as it was when JJ.A was doing his work, and to learn about the historical context of his research and painting.