A guest post by science writer Susan Stockdale…
Bring On the Birds celebrates 21 distinctive birds around the world. I was inspired to create the book after watching a robin build a nest on a ledge above my front door.
As with all my books, my first step was to write the words, paying close attention to how they sounded. I said them out loud as I wrote them, thinking about their alliteration and rhythm. I began with the rhyme scheme.
“Swooping birds, whooping birds,
birds with puffy chests.
Dancing birds, diving birds,
birds with fluffy crests.”
Then I headed to the library to research the birds that would suit the categories from the poem, selecting those that had the most visual appeal to me as an illustrator. There are plenty of choices for swooping, whooping and diving birds! But because I celebrate biodiversity among animals in my books, I was looking for beautiful birds from disparate geographic areas. I wanted to introduce children to a wide variety of bird habitats, ranging from the rainforest canopy of South America to the arid sand flats of Africa.
After writing my manuscript and creating a dummy with the illustrations sketches, I consulted ornithologists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. These bird experts verified the accuracy of my textual and visual information. I also tried to see as many of the birds in my book as possible, visiting zoos and examining bird specimens at the National Museum of Natural History. My most exotic trip was to the Galapagos Islands, where I saw the Blue-footed Boobies perform their fanciful mating dance – a truly entertaining display. I painted them exactly as I remembered seeing them.
I write and illustrate my picture books to encourage children to celebrate the splendor of the natural world, including the creatures featured in Bring On the Birds. I also enjoy reminding them that there are wonders to behold in their own backyards!
Birds come in all sorts of interesting shapes, sizes and colors – and many of them can do amazing things.
Can you imagine… Dancing birds, diving birds? Hanging birds, hiding birds?
They’re all real!
In her latest book, Bring On the Birds, noted author-illustrator Susan Stockdale introduces young readers to both exotic and familiar birds in engaging rhyming text. The bright, bold colors and crisp, clean lines of Stockdale’s birds, depicted in their natural habitats, can’t help but grab your attention. An afterword identifies each animal and tells and little about it and where it lives.
Susan Stockdale is the author and illustrator of children’s picture books including Bring On the Birds, Fabulous Fishes and Carry Me! Animal Babies on the Move. Her books celebrate nature with grace and charm and have won awards from Parents’ Choice, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Library Association. Susan’s engaging rhymes and vibrant illustrations elicit praise. The Washington Post exclaimed, “If the paintings are the feast, Stockdale’s words are the dessert.”
She researches her books extensively. To create Bring On the Birds, she traveled to the Galapagos Islands where she saw Blue-footed Boobies perform their lively mating dance and the Great Frigatebird puff out its crimson chest. Bring On the Birds was selected as a 2012 ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Susan lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she is creating a picture book about striped animals for publication in 2013. Visit her website at www.susanstockdale.com, and click here to view a Voice of America TV story about how she creates her nature books.
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