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home/school/life is the secular homeschool magazine for families who learn together.

Readaloud of the Week: Audubon, On The Wings Of The World

Readaloud of the Week: Audubon, On The Wings Of The World

AUDUBON, ON THE WINGS OF THE WORLD by Fabien Grolleau

Audubon, On the Wings of the World is a beautiful graphic novel about the life of John James Audubon. It was written by Fabien Grolleau and illustrated by Jérémie Royer. Most the story is based on Audubon’s own writings about the adventures he had while journeying through America at the start of the 19th century on a mission to paint every bird that inhabited this land.  With only a few artists’ tools, an assistant, a guide, and a gun, he encountered many dangers, foul weather, and illness. He also had a difficult time being taken seriously by scientists. But nothing would deter him from his life’s quest. Royer’s illustrations are the best part of the book, and they will make you want to linger over the pages. 

If your family loves birds, this is a must read. My boys and I love birds, and I’ve tried to teach them a little about John James Audubon in the past, and I’ve showed them his paintings, which you can view and download for free at audubon.org. When I saw this book recommended by another birder on Twitter, I checked it out from the library, and I loved it. I read it to my eleven and eight-year-old boys, and they liked it too. I would love to follow it up someday with a more detailed biography of John James Audubon. I know liberties had to be taken to make the graphic novel work.

Some parents might want to read it over before letting their children read it, and you may want to read it with them, too. Naturalists in the 1800s hunted and collected their specimens before drawing them, and Audubon followed this practice. This book also makes it pretty clear that he was married to his quest to record all the birds of North America, so he was a pretty horrible father and husband. Since the dialogue in the book is sparse, I sometimes had to explain to my boys what was happening. They weren’t quite old enough to understand all the facial expressions and other visual clues in the illustrations. There are some mild swear words and a few illustrations of Native American women with naked chests.  

I think it would make a great supplement to any homeschool’s American history studies, especially for a mature student.


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