Birds & Words: A Fun Family Quest

By: Lisa Hoffman, curator of education on October 9th, 2019

Literature and art are natural companions; children’s illustrated literature is an early introduction to both.

Kevin Henkes’ Birds is a favorite book to share – with babies through second-grade students – while leading Woodson Art Museum programs during Birds in Art 2019, on view through December 1. Laura Dronzek’s minimal, gestural illustrations offer a lens to view more complex artworks.

While sharing a story or artwork during these programs, I encourage interpretation by participating children and adults. Interpretation is neither right nor wrong; you see what you see. Children are uninhibited – and often unbiased – perceivers and their insights never cease to delight and surprise me. The beauty of a pristine assessment is a gift.

Jeremy Bradshaw, Round Robins, 2019

The Henkes book begins with a robin cheerfully singing from a windowsill perch. After I give a related prompt, the tots and accompanying adults look for robins and singing birds depicted in artworks in the galleries.

Parker McDonald, Take Note II, 2019

Participants continue their quest as I read from Henkes’ book. “Birds can be yellow or blue or brown or red, or even green, I think.”

Michael Dickter, Learn from the Sky, 2019

Jane Kim, Cornerstones, 2019

Nancy Howe, Sacred and Slow, 2019

“Sometimes they are so black that you can’t see their eyes or their feathers, just their shapes.” This page also can initiate a discussion about James Clow’s common raven. James used no black paint because, as he explains, ravens aren’t really black. In the darkness of their feathers, all sorts of color and light are reflected.

James M. Clow, Cinnamon Girl, 2018

“Once I saw seven birds on the telephone wire.”

Tony Pridham, Early Morning Woodswallows, 2019








Embark on your own self-directed pursuits.

Visit Art Park – the Museum’s interactive family gallery – anytime during Museum hours and read Birds. Delight in taking time in the galleries to interpret and connect with the 127 artworks by artists from around the world. Discover why Birds in Art is an internationally renowned celebration of avian art.

Keep in mind Kevin Henkes’ closing words, “I like to pretend I’m a bird. I can’t really fly, but I can do this . . . I can sing!”

What Birds in Art artworks make your heart sing?

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