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This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon
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This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  312 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Birds were “the objects of my greatest delight,” wrote John James Audubon (1785–1851), founder of modern ornithology and one of the world’s greatest bird painters. His masterpiece, The Birds of America depicts almost five hundred North American bird species, each image—lifelike and life size—rendered in vibrant color. Audubon was also an explorer, a woodsman, a hunter, an ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published March 1st 2015 by University of Nebraska Press
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Mya R Yes, it’s appropriate for middle grades and up.

Because of the many illustrations it also could be read to younger children if you are willing to abri…more
Yes, it’s appropriate for middle grades and up.

Because of the many illustrations it also could be read to younger children if you are willing to abridge some of the text. (less)

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Barb Middleton
I couldn't put down this 90 page book that chronicles the adventurous life of John James Audubon as he compiled his famous book, "Birds of America," published in England in 1827. Nancy Plain shows his passion for nature and unusual self-taught artistry that helped him create unique pictures that not only showed birds in movement but also in their habitat. Anecdotes, hardships, and adventures made this a page turner. Audubon's labeled paintings are spread throughout the book and accompany stories ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I teach an excerpt from Audobon's Ornithological Biography Volume 1, so when I came across this at the library, I picked it up to get a snapshot of his life's work.

This is aimed at younger readers, but I found it had just enough to satisfy my curiosity about John James Audobon. He nearly went broke to create what would become his magnum opus which chronicled, for the first time, over 400 species of birds in America. He traveled far and wide in his efforts. There are many interesting facts, but I
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"This Strange Wilderness" is one of the best compact and concise biographies available on John James Audubon. Award-winning author Nancy Plain has blended a wonderfully interesting prose narrative with the original illustrations of Audubon to create a book that will be enjoyed by children (ages 12 and up) and adults alike. Audubon comes alive as a remarkable man who was an artist and explorer, but who was embarrassed by the title of naturalist or ornithologist bestowed upon him by many of his pe ...more
Not sure who the audience is for this, but I sure enjoyed it. The illustrations are gorgeous and Audubon's life is fascinating. ...more
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Plain clear beautiful writing, and the loveliest pictures. For a research project, but I will want to read this again, more slowly, for pleasure.
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One could argue that no one loved birds more than John James Audubon. He devoted his life to discovering and painting every North American species of birds. The book This Strange Wilderness is a biography of Audubon and also includes some of his artwork, which is stunning if you have never seen it. The book begins with Audubon's birth in Haiti and the death of his mother he never knew. His father, a French sea captain and plantation owner, took him back to France where he and his wife Anne raise ...more
Fascinated by the great wilderness, John James Audubon led a life of adventure. His desire to become the top ornithologist in America pushed him to travel across the country observing, cataloging, and drawing hundreds of birds.

This was a quick, easy, engaging read. Coming to the table knowing nothing about Audubon other than his name, I was quickly drawn in to this biography by Audubon's own artwork and Nancy Plain's storytelling. It was also refreshing to read such an upbeat title after reading
2016 YALSA Finalist

Interesting. I learned a lot more than I knew about this man. For the most part, he was a traveling starving artist. Also, he was more successful in England / Europe before he was in the United States.

Still, his drawings are extraordinary!

Another interesting piece that I learned -- While Audubon, the man, was interested in COLLECTING birds, the Audubon Society is dedicated to PROTECTING & PRESERVING them.

Vernon Area Public Library KIDS
This wonderful biography discusses John James Audubon's life, which is quite spectacular, adventurous, and impressive. He spent over 30 years of his life working on The Birds of America, going from rich, to very poor, to reviled, to extremely famous and respected. He was alive in an incredible time of change and expansion, and witnessed it all. Really engaging read.

Reviewed by: Julia Pyatetsky, Youth Services, Vernon Area Public Library
Chris Enss
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nancy Plain's books never fail to entertain. She's a quality author and the research she does on the subjects she writes about are first rate.
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating biography of Audubon. The illustrations are gorgeous. The 1800s were such a monumental time for the United States in terms of growth for our country as well as the destruction of Native Americans and the wilderness. It's strange to think that Audubon, the innovator of conservation, would kill around 100 birds to create each drawing. ...more
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Melissa Schweitzer
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Non-fiction is usually not my first choice for my reading time. However, I have discovered that good YA non-fiction is not only tolerable but can be enjoyable as well. This is true of This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain.
I read this book because of a YASLA challenge and I was familiar with Audubon's paintings. I have come to appreciate Plain's style of storytelling. She covers details about Audubon's life without getting mired in them. On the other hand
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This is a juvenile book, so it was a short and easy read with enough information for me. I really am not interested enough to read an extensive adult biography of Audubon. Not sure if it is true, but I felt the book portrayed him as a very one dimensional man; totally obsessed with the creation of his books and documenting the birds & then mammals of North America. The Audubon paintings included in the book were very nice.
Heydi Smith
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-non-fic
Simply amazing! I learned so much about early America and about all the animals that are now endangered or extinct because of over hunting.

Very easy to read with an exciting page turning journey.
Even though this book is labeled juvenile, I found it satisfying, as an adult, with itstreatment of the man and his work perfectly paced and beautifully illustrated.

Nancy Plain of course is not giving you a great deal of detail, but the chapters each contain riveting samples from primary sources, and enough historical background to let you know how exciting Audubon's life was. Born in Haiti, where his father traded in slaves, he had to leave as the slave uprisings occurred. Then back in France
Jennifer Ritchie
In my library’s reference section, there is a large 2-volume set of prints of Audubon’s watercolors, along with biographical information written in a pretty scholarly style. I used to get those out pretty much every time I visited the library, since I loved the art and found Audubon’s life to be fascinating.

This book, aimed at older kids, contains almost all of the information that I’d read before, and even some things I didn’t know, but written in a much more engaging style. The author liberall
Kate Roebuck
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What a perfect homage to John James Audubon who I knew nothing about other than his creation of The Birds of America and part of the theme and book in Okay for Now. But to get to know Audubon's intimate passion with nature and his love of the animals, sketching, and the lengths he went to continue his passion and make a profit, even when it meant leaving his family to pursue it. There were many connections and relationships he built along the way, sometimes penniless and sometimes with riches. H ...more
Jen Davis Lance
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
Don't you love it when a historical figure ends up being more interesting and quirky than you would have suspected? I chose this book because I have an enduring interest in the natural world, particularly birds, and also artistic depictions of the natural world. John James Audobon's seminal book "The Birds of America" has always perfectly represented that intersection, but I never knew much about Audobon himself. I was delighted to read about this self-taught artist, a paradox of cultured, hands ...more
Alda Saldan
This Strange Wilderness is the biography of John James Audubon, an ornithologist best known for Birds of America, an illustrated encyclopedia of the American birds published between 1827 and 1839. In many ways he paved the way for other naturalists (e.g. Charles Darwin and John Gould) and artists (Elizabeth Gould) and he contributed to the discovery of new species of birds. But this biography also describes an adventurous life, for long years spent in the American frontier, and a very keen inter ...more
Mya R
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars?

A very accessible biography of Audubon with many illustrations by the subject, usually from the same period of his life. Fascinating for the descriptions of travel during the era, the natural history, and the descriptions of the founding of a science. I appreciated it as an adult; it’s appropriate as-is for middle grade and up, and because of the pretty pictures it could be shared with younger children with an abridged presentation.

Content Notes: killing of birds and animals for food,
Being that this book was written for juvenile readers, it made for a quick, concise, abridged telling of John James Audubon's life. I read it in two short sittings and enjoyed the insight I gleamed into the artist's life, of which I knew next to nothing before picking up this book. But because it was such an abbreviated glimpse into his life, I would love to read a full-length biography in the future.

This book also featured a few full-page artwork pieces within each chapter. His art is simply g
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Simply a beautiful book. I thought that it was well-written and well-researched. I read it all in one sitting and will recommend it to anyone interested in history, birds, art, or the life of John James Audubon.
Saleena Davidson
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
This Strange Wilderness is a quiet book, and a biography about John James Audubon, the bird guy.....I found it quite interesting and enlightening to learn more about him and how he changed science and bird watching.
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very quick read, but nice overview of Audubon's life. Don't forget to go see one of the few remaining complete sets of the original "The Birds of America" on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. You really don't understand it's beauty and genius until you see it in person! ...more
Kristin R
Dec 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this biography about John James Audubon which covers how he was obsessed with learning about birds and studying them and trying to depict them as lifelike in his art. His work is amazing and no one else had done anything close to this when he was working. It is quite a life story.
True, a lifetime can fill up hundreds of pages, but perhaps nonfiction would reach a larger audience if it was more broadly digestible. I find myself reaching for biographies written for a younger reader and not yet regretting it.
Molly K
Jul 30, 2021 rated it it was ok
This did not hold my attention at all. In fact, when I had trouble sleeping I listened to the audio version and fell in to a deep slumber. That being said, maybe it was the audiobook reader who didn't hold my attention. ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was read as a biography in our homeschool and really captured the attention and imagination of my child. I did edit slightly some more graphic parts.
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