Wonderfully reassuring for anxious little fledglings of any species.–Kirkus Reviews
Most of my writing begins in the sort of nests I made as a girl who dragged pillows and blankets to corners or under windows. They are good places to think and dream and hide a little, though like the nests birds call home, the outer rims are often in plain sight. I considered writing about these sorts of nests, which most children make, but decided to create a tribute to birds’ magnificent creations of twigs, mud, pine needles, and the occasional bit of string or gum wrappers. This gave me excuses to stare out the window and make trips to the library. I knew my protagonists would need to talk, but I wanted to keep their actions as close as I could to the habits of real birds.
I chose robins over other pretty birds not just because they live all around the country, but because I admire the way the moms and dads share nest-building and child-rearing chores. A bonus was that I didn’t have to search for a plain but not-too-cute name. I would call my hero “Robin.” After gathering more details than I could use, I imagined my way into my characters, then sent the finished manuscript to my editor. She passed it on to Candace Whitman, who painted green-green grass and clear blue skies and tore paper to shape robins.
After my editor showed me some of the artist’s early sketches, we discussed some robin habits, such as how long fledglings stay in a nest and what they usually do when they first venture out. My editor was interested in things that had to be left out of a very short book and she suggested that I write an afterword where curious readers can find out more about the lives of robins. I hope they’ll draw birds, sculpt birds, look for nests, and check out guide books.
Robins live in all fifty states as well as in other countries. Can you spot robins near your home? They’re among the least shy of birds! How do robins look different from other nearby birds? How do robins find food? How do they walk? Try walking like them!
Every kind of bird sings with a particular rhythm. Can you learn to recognize a robin’s tune?
Write and draw
I love to think and write in a sort of nest I make by piling up pillows. Do you have a place where you feel safe and happy? Draw or write about your favorite “nest.”
You can help robins make nests by leaving short bits of string or yarn (6-8 inches) outside for them to find. Robins use mud to patch together their nests, so if there hasn’t been much rain, you can help by putting out water -- or mixing your own puddles!
Robins like to dine off of lawns. You can help keep their “table” safe by asking your parents not to use harmful chemicals on the grass.
Candace Whitman created some adorable robins and lovely landscapes with watercolors and torn paper. You’ll find activities for the very young and more examples of her artwork at www.Candacewhitman.com.
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