The Dawn Chorus – a pretty picture book whether you’re a night owl or an early bird

posted in: Suzanne Barton | 10

Did you know that on Sunday it is International Dawn Chorus Day? It’s a day where all around the globe people will be rising early to greet the dawn and simply listen to bird song. If you can’t find a local event to join in with, you could instead simply curl up with The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne Barton (@suzannebarton0).

dawnchorusfrontcoverPeep the bird wakes to the sound of wonderful song. He’s determined to find out who’s singing so beautifully; could it be the owl, the mouse or the frog? Eventually he stumbles on a flock of birds, and he has his answer: It’s the Dawn Chorus!

And oh, how beautifully they sing. Peep is determined to join their ranks, but despite practising hard, he keeps missing his early morning auditions. Is there a reason why he’s not cut out to sing at first light? Will Peep every be able to fill the sky with gorgeous song?

A charming addition to the ranks of picture books which explore how creatures (or indeed we, the readers) react when we find out we don’t quite belong (I’m thinking, for example of Stellaluna, and Croc and Bird), The Dawn Chorus is a delightful, soothing tale about perseverance, and discovering who we truly are.

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The eyecatching illustrations make great use of visual texture, with collage, decoration and especially effective looping swoops of paintbrush and patterns, capturing playful flight and joyful flurries of song. The restricted earthy orange/red/yellow palette makes this book gently glow – just like a warm sunrise held in your hands as you read.

Taking our lead from the cute birds in Barton’s book we decided to make our own flock to sing to us. I cut out several bird bodies, and cut slits in the middle of them.

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The girls used doilies like stencils to decorate the birds’ chests, and then decorated those doilies (coloured them in) before folding them accordion style and then slipping them into the slits. Gently we slightly opened out the doilies to create wings, which we held in place with paperclips. We finished off the birds with small hand-drawn eyes, and tails created by taking half a doily and folding that like a fan before taping in place.

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M and J then took the flock out to the garden, where they settled in our cherry tree.

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Whilst making our birds we listened to:

  • The Dawn Chorus by Spiers and Boden (click to listen for free on MySpace). If you want to learn to play this yourself, you can find the details here.
  • Birdsong FM – “an immersive experience designed to help busy city goers to escape the grind and get more relaxation in their day. It is currently available for iPhone/iPad, Android and the web.”
  • Cantus Arcticus (Concerto for Birds and Orchestra) by Einojuhani Rautavaara. This lovely piece of classical music is overlaid with birdsong. I discovered it when I heard children’s author and illustrator Mairi Hedderwick being interviewed on BBC Radio.


  • Other activities which would go well alongside reading The Dawn Chorus include:

  • Making a spring tree table decorations with colourful leaves. Perhaps something like this scrap paper tree centrepiece from Everyday Mom Ideas, or a similar lovely idea using twigs and tissue paper from My Nearest and Dearest.
  • Learn to identify nightingales. The RSPB has a great page here, with illustrations and audio files.
  • Yes, you’ve guessed it: Wake the kids up REALLY early and head out to listen to the dawn chorus. The BBC has produced a handy leaflet with some tips, including games.

  • Do let me know if any of you make it on early on Sunday 4th of May!

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Dawn Chorus from the publisher.

    10 Responses

    1. I love the dawn chorus! Suzanne’s book sounds wonderful and what lovely ideas for activities. Love the paper birds!

      • Thanks Pauline – the paper birds are very pretty I have to admit. I think they’d work well decorating xmas trees too.

    2. Looks like a gem!!
      danielle @ this picture book life recently posted..imogene’s antlers / antler accessories

    3. The Dawn Chorus is on my wish list – I love the illustrations that I’ve seen 🙂
      Catherine recently posted..How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

    4. Do let me know what you think of it Catherine, when you get to see the pictures in all their glory!
      Zoe recently posted..The Dawn Chorus – a pretty picture book whether you’re a night owl or an early bird

    5. choxbox

      Sounds like a lovely book – will check at the library immediatly!

    6. choxbox

      And as usual, lovely idea (birds).

    7. Oh wow, I remember making doily birds like that at school, thank you for reminding me! Going to check out the birdsong links, Bagl loves to see and hear birds. We have a lovely French board book with birdsong.
      Katherine recently posted..#10in2014 – Keralan aubergine curry

    8. Ah yes Katherine, I remember you mentioning the French book. As really little kids mine loved those soft toy birds you could buy that when squeezed would “sing” the appropriate bird song.
      Zoe recently posted..The Dawn Chorus – a pretty picture book whether you’re a night owl or an early bird

    9. We have one of those too, I must dig it out as I’d forgotten about it, worked its way to the bottom of the toy box.
      Katherine recently posted..18/52

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