Davies, J., & Sweet, M. (2004). The boy who drew birds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

32 pages.

GLE (grade level equivalent):  4

Lexile measure:  AD790L (4th to 7th grades)

DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) level:  34 (3rd grade)

Key words and vocabulary:  minuet, gavotte, commerce, Napoleon, slashes of snow, hollows, “Il y a des oiseaux,” lichen, Aristotle, broods, medieval, banding, innovative, homing.

Literal, Inferential and Application Questions for the reader:

LITERAL (reading “on the lines”)

1.  Why did John James’ father send him to America when he was 18 years old?  (see page 4)

2.  What did Audubon’s natural history book say that Aristotle believed about where small birds went in the winter?  (see page 12)

3.  Why did John James walk five miles to a store in the village?  (see page 18)

INFERENTIAL (reading “between the lines”)

1.  Why do you think Mrs. Thomas thought James was “something of a cracked pot”? 

2.  Why do you think John James would take all the drawings he had made and burn them on his birthday each year?

3.  Why do you think it took until the first decade of the 1800s for someone like John James Audubon to come along and finally answer the two thousand year old question, “Where do small birds go, and do they return to the same nest in the spring (page 21)?”

APPLICATION (reading “beyond the lines”)

1.  Audbon sought answers in his books of natural history about where birds went in the winter.  In them, some scientists said birds traveled to the moon each fall and returned in spring.  What other erroneous scientific beliefs/”facts” do you know of which have later been proven to be untrue?

2.  On page 14, the author tells us that Audubon had failed every exam he had taken in school.   Research another person in history or presently who also failed in school, yet whose discoveries or contributions have had monumental impact in their field (math, science, technology, literature, etc).  Tell about that person here.

Visit the website of the Bird Banding Laboratory: The North American Bird Banding
Program to learn more about bird banding as it is
practiced today. 

View John James Audubon’s paintings and drawings of Birds of America at Audubon.org


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