Description from GoodReads:
Louis loves to watch birds. He takes care of injured birds and studies how they look and how they move. His father wants him to become an engineer, but Louis dreams of being a bird artist. To achieve this dream, he must practice, practice, practice. He learns from the art of John James Audubon. But as Louis grows up, he begins to draw and paint living, flying birds in their natural habitats.
Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874–1927) is now known as the father of modern bird art. He traveled with many scientific expeditions all over the world. His best-known works—paintings for habitat exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York—are still beloved by visitors today. His art helped to encourage wildlife conservation, inspiring people to celebrate and protect the world of wings.
Poems by Newbery Honor–winning author Margarita Engle and illustrations by Aliona Bereghici capture the life of Louis Fuertes and the deep sense of wonder that he felt when he painted the sky.
I am excited to have Margarita Engle on the blog today. She stopped by and answered a few questions that I had about writing a biographical picture book. Thank you Margarita for stopping by and I can't wait until everyone can pick up a copy of the beautiful biography in verse.
How do you tackle a biography in 32 to 48 pages?
I knew there were many incredibly inspiring aspects of Fuertes’ life that I wanted to honor! However, I did not want this to be an unemotional text about facts and figures. I longed to show the spirit of Fuertes’ work, both in terms of science and art. He was an original thinker, conceiving something other bird artists hadn’t tried—the painting of living birds in flight.
Did you see what you can find and then see if a particular event in his life should be the focus or a certain period of time.
Some of my picture books are made up entirely of a single long poem, but this needed many poems, one for each stage of life. In order to show Fuertes at different ages, I had to begin with childhood poems, and progress to adult ones. He was a quirky child, already certain that he wanted to be a bird artist. He had a bird hospital in front of his house. When he was still very young, he tied the leg of an owl to the kitchen table, so that he could paint its portrait! He was also a quirky adult, sketching caricatures of his college professors as birds, keeping a loon in the bathtub long enough to paint it, and clowning around to entertain children in his art studio. However, his work was serious. By pioneering the painting of living birds in flight instead of killing and posing them, he changed bird art forever. He inspired an entire generation of ornithologists, including Roger Tory Peterson. He was the bird artist on all the influential scientific expeditions of his era, and he painted the murals for habitat exhibits at the Natural History Museum in New York. There is so much to admire in his life that I only managed to fit a few highlights into this picture book, but I hope they are highlights that will inspire children to care about conservation and the protection of wildlife, including urban birds.
Where is the line between a biography and a fictionalized biography?
Nonfiction biographies are strictly factual. They are written in third person, while The Sky Painter is in first person. Nonfiction does not imagine thoughts and emotions, while my poems do. Nevertheless, I’m happy to report that my poems are based on Fuertes’ own books, letters, and field notes, so I know that only the details are imagined, not the basic events and his attitudes toward those events. A fictionalized verse biography can be honest, even though it includes an element of imagination.
About the author:
Margarita Engle is a Cuban American poet and novelist whose work has been published in many countries. Her books include The Poet Slave of Cuba, winner of the Pura Belpré Award for narrative and the Américas Award;The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor book; Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, a Kirkus Best Book for Children; and The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, winner of the 2014 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Young Adult/Children’s Literature. Margarita lives in California, where she enjoys bird-watching and helping her husband with his volunteer work for wilderness search-and-rescue dog training programs. To learn more, and to download a free activity kit for THE SKY PAINTER, visit: www.margaritaengle.com
Check out the official book trailer:
Follow along on THE SKY PAINTER blog tour:
Mon, Apr 20 Library Fanatic
Tues, Apr 21 Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Apr 22 Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Apr 23 5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Apr 24 Teach Mentor Texts
Sat, Apr 25 Booking Mama
Mon, Apr 27 Sharpread
Tues, Apr 28 The Children's Book Review
Wed, Apr 29 Cracking the Cover
Thurs, Apr 30 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
Fri, May 1 Archimedes Notebook
One lucky winner will receive a copy of THE SKY PAINTER: LOUIS FUERTES, BIRD ARTIST by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Aliona Bereghici. (U.S. addresses only.)