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AUDUBON by Jennifer Armstrong Kirkus Star

AUDUBON

Painter of Birds in the Wild Frontier

By Jennifer Armstrong (Author) , Jos. A. Smith (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-8109-4238-0
Publisher: Abrams

The son of a wealthy planter in the West Indies, naturalist and frontiersman John James Audubon devoted himself to difficult journeys through American forests, swamps, mountains, and plains in search of plants and animals unknown to science. Rather than telling the story of Audubon’s whole life, Armstrong (co-author, The Kiln, p. 379, etc.) limits her perspective to Audubon’s adventures from 1804 to 1812: the New Madrid earthquake, when “the world rattled and rumbled”; 160 flocks of passenger pigeons taking hours to storm overhead; an immense flock of trumpeter swans in battle with wolves; sharing the inside of a giant sycamore tree with 9,000 swirling swifts; and a chance encounter with Daniel Boone (though this may not have happened). Armstrong and Smith make a great team in this immensely likable biographical profile. The watercolor art, embellished with pencil, watercolor pencil, and pen and ink, is dramatic and a perfect complement to the vivid prose, as is the artwork by Audubon himself. Though the ending seems abrupt, long and interesting notes from both author and artist offer further information and guide readers to additional resources. The text, based on Audubon’s personal diaries, is supplemented by research in the resources cited. Smith (Elwood and the Witch, 2000, etc.) offers interesting insights about the artwork, including a fascinating tidbit about Audubon’s ability to paint two-handed, as portrayed early in the volume. An excellent example of what picture-book biography can be. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)