Celebrate Birds and Poetry This Spring
April brings a bevy of backyard birds and National Poetry Month! Your family can celebrate both with a delightful rhyming picture book, Bring on the Birds (Peachtree) by author/illustrator Susan Stockdale.
Through her rhythmical text, beautiful acrylic paintings and picture glossary, Susan gives youngsters a chance to swoop with the Great Horned Owl, whoop with the crane and learn more about the American robin, toucan and Adelie penguin.
Susan has written a number of nature picture books for kids, most recently Fabulous Fishes. She traces her interest in birds to a childhood fascination with the “bright bold colors and patterned beaks” of parrots. Below she kindly shares thoughts on watching birds and creating books.
Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing the book? Illustrating it?
A: For writing, I most enjoyed creating the rhyme scheme, using alliteration and selecting just the right pairing of words for each bird to describe its behavior: ‘dancing birds, diving birds,’ for example, and ‘hanging birds, hiding birds.’ I loved doing the painting but it is always a challenge to create art that is both visually appealing and factually accurate. Sometimes I drew more than 20 sketches for one bird.
Q: What research did you do?
A: I consulted books, magazine articles and online sources. I also shared the manuscript and pictures with bird experts at the National Museum of Natural History, the National Zoo, and the Cornell Lab of Orinthology, and they reviewed for accuracy.
Q: Did you see the birds in the book?
A: I tried to see as many as possible. I visited zoos and examined bird specimens at the National Museum of Natural History. I also visted the Galapagos Islands, where I saw Blue-footed Boobies and the Great Frigatebird.
Q: How long did the research, writing and illustrating process take?
A: Two years.
Q: Do you have a favorite bird that you really wanted to include?
A: The Great Horned Owl. The beautiful patterns on its face and wings were wonderful to paint.
Q: Do you like to bird watch? Do you have any tips for young bird watchers?
A: I encourage kids to go on bird walks with a bird expert. I do this at the Audubon Naturalist Society, close to my home. An expert will point out birds you might miss and you’ll learn a lot about them. And kids might have fun writing about and drawing pictures of birds that interest them.
Q: Are you working on a new book now?
A: On two new books, actually. I want to introduce children to spots and stripes on a wide variety of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects. I’ve written both books in rhyme and am currently creating the images for them. I’m having a great time!
Check out NWF’s Activity Finder, with dozens of fun bird crafts and activities for young ones!