John James Audubon: Fiction/Non-fiction Pairings

19 Jun

I just got my hands on This Strange Wilderness:The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain.

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John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, was published in 1838, a mere 32 years after the  Lewis and Clark expedition  returned from their cross-country journey. I think we forget how challenging it must have been for Audubon to produce his masterpiece. Plain’s book is an excellent biography of the artist and naturalist, giving us an idea of the personal tragedies he suffered  and the challenges he faced as he roamed the country to paint the 489 pictures of The Birds of America. The book includes many full-page, full-color interior illustrations.

While reading This Strange Wilderness,  I got thinking about books n which John James Audubon plays a role. The first one that came to mind was one of this year’s OBOB books, A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole.

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Celeste, a mouse longing for a real home, becomes a source of inspiration to teenaged Joseph, assistant to the artist and naturalist John James Audubon, at a New Orleans, Louisiana, plantation in 1821.

Audubon’s The Birds of America  plays a significant role in Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay for Now.

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As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends, an abusive father, and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him until he finds an ally in Lil Spicer–a fiery young lady. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage.

 

 

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