In the photo above, VivianL and ChingKiuY are proudly holding the Audubon-themed calendars that they earned with their Audubon-like hard work and attention to detail.
We recently read The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon in one of our classes. It’s an excellent book, well-written and beautifully illustrated, that emphasizes Audubon‘s contributions to science — primarily his affixing of silver threads to the legs of migratory birds to demonstrate that they returned to the same locations every spring.
The narrative focuses on Audubon’s early days in the United States at the Mill Grove farmhouse in Pennsylvania where he spent his first few years in America. At that point, he was decades away from publishing Birds of America, but had already begun painting the birds that he saw on his farm. He had also already discovered a technique that he would go on to use for the rest of his career. Whereas Audubon’s contemporaries were painting stuffed birds, Audubon was producing the sort of stunningly realistic images for which he later became known by shooting the birds that he wanted to paint himself and then immediately passing lengths of wire through their bodies and bending the wires to achieve lifelike poses.
Fortunately for squeamish young readers, this is not mentioned in the book.
The title of this post is excerpted from a line written by Audubon describing the happy, virtually worry-free portion of his life that he spent at Mill Grove.