“John James was a boy who loved the out-of-doors more than the in...”


Age Range: 4 - 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 3
Series: Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; New title edition (September 27, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0618243437
ISBN-13: 978-0618243433

Young Audubon was a boy who believed in studying birds in nature, not just from books. And, in the fall of 1804, he was determined to learn if the small birds nesting near his Pennsylvania home really would return the following spring.

For centuries, the disappearance and return of small birds each fall and spring was a mystery. Where did they spend the winter? And when they did return, did they really fly back to the very same nests?

This book reveals how the youthful Audubon pioneered a technique essential to our understanding of birds. Capturing the early passion of America’s greatest painter of birds, this story will leave young readers listening intently for the call of birds near their own homes.

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.


"Sweet's illustrations soar, incorporating mixed-media collage into her line-and-watercolor paintings in a gloriously eclectic mélange that evokes both the time and Audubon's scientific enthusiasms."—Kirkus, starred review

"Davies does full justice to this tale of intellectual precocity and single-mindedness."—the Washington Post

"Melissa Sweet's relaxed watercolor style and skillful incorporation of collage, plus a lively narration that illuminates Audubon's passion for observation and sets his pivotal insight into context, make this appealing vignette a fine introduction to his work."—The Horn Book

Awards and Lists

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Kirkus—starred review
  • John Burroughs Nature Book Award
  • Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award
  • Outstanding Science Trade Book, NSTA
  • New York Public Library's Best Books