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The Boy Who Knew What The Birds Said, Padraic Colum - Alder & Alouette

The Boy Who Knew What The Birds Said | Celtic Legends & Tales | Padraic Colum & Reg Down

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There is one thing that all the birds are afraid of, and that is the thing that will happen when the bird that follows the Cuckoo flies into the Cuckoo's mouth. And what will happen then? When the bird that follows the Cuckoo flies into the Cuckoo's mouth,  the world will come to an end.

But fear not, my dear reader, for The Boy Who Knew What the Birds Said is a  charming and timeless tale that is sure to entertain modern children just as it did when first published. This is not to be missed by collectors of classic children's literature. 

These tales are accompanied by the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Dugald Stewart Walker. Walker was one of the most highly-celebrated illustrators of children's books during the early twentieth century and are best remembered for the lavish, magical realm that they frequently described. He is perhaps best known for his contributions to "Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen" (1914). 


This book has depth, artistry and drama with a strong and clear storyteller's voice. Reg Down gave it a fresh editing with grade 4-8 students in mind.

In addition to editing for clarity and pronounceability (Celtic spellings can be quite difficult!), I refreshed the original illustrations, inserted footnotes where a word was uncommon or seldom used, added a map to show where countries and mountains mentioned in the book are located, added a section with characterizations and drawings of all the birds which appear in the book, included the Celtic Ogham alphabet referenced in one tale, and finally, added a brief biography of Padraic Colum, with a description of his dramatic life and times in Ireland and his arrival in the land of hope, America.

This book really is a gem and well worth the reading for both students and adults alike. Reg Down.



  • The Boy Who Knew What the Birds Said
  • Written by Padraic Colum and illustrated by Reg Down.
  • Published by Pied Piper Press, February 18, 2013.
  • Grades 4th to 8th
  • 0.25" H x 9.02" L x 5.98" W (0.38 lbs) 120 pages
  • Softcover
  • Adventure, Legends, Folklore, Myths, Historical Fiction, Celtic Culture