Celebrate Birds and Poetry This Spring

Bring on the BirdsApril 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.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl/ Photo by Digital Vision

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!