Friday, February 28, 2014

Feathers are Not just for Flying

Feathers ~ Not Just for Flying
by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Sarah S Brannen
32 pages; ages 6-9 (great for older children too!)
Charlesbridge, 2014

Themes: animals, nature, nonfiction

How can you not want to pick up a book with a huge peacock feather looking you right in the eye?

Opening: "Birds and feathers go together like trees and leaves, like stars and the sky." And most birds, notes Melissa Stewart, have thousands of feathers. But not all feathers are the same, because feathers have so many different jobs to do.

Did you know that juncos use their feathers to distract predators? That ptarmigans use feathers like snowshoes? Stewart shows many ways that birds use feathers, from keeping warm to carrying nest materials to making music. Sarah Brannen's gorgeous watercolors fill in the details.

What I like love about this book: I like the scrapbook-style design that makes it look like a field notebook. And I like the combination of simple text for younger readers complemented with sidebars (or text boxes) with more details.

On the first spread, Stewart writes that feathers can warm like a blanket. I love the way the supplementary text is shown at the bottom, as a scrap of paper "taped" into a notebook. In addition to the lovely painting of a blue jay, Brannen includes details of blue jay feathers and a woven blanket. Every page is a treasure!

I like how, at the back, there is a spread showing many kinds of feathers and explaining how scientists classify types of feathers. It's like a picture dictionary for folks who want to know the difference between a bristle feather and a contour feather.

I also like Stewart's "author's note" where she talks about the inspiration for this book - and how it took three years of tinkering before it came together. A wonderful reminder that books take time, and many revisions.

Beyond the book: Get out a notebook and a pencil, maybe some watercolors or colored pencils, and start watching what the birds in your neighborhood are doing with their feathers. Do they warn off other birds (or squirrels) at the feeder? Are they fluffing up on cold days? Are they starting to carry things to build nests?

Look closely at a feather. When you find a feather on the ground, bring it home to study. What kind of feather is it? Draw a sketch - maybe color it in with pencils or watercolors. Use a magnifying lens to look closer. What do you observe?

I've got birds on the brain today! Head over to Sally's Bookshelf and check out another bird book and activities. Drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing.

Today's review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.

  On Monday we'll fly over to join the Nonfiction Monday round-up, where you'll find all kinds of great nonfiction for children and teens.  Review copy provided by publisher.


  1. The scrapbook style reminded me of the original Audubon notebooks - perfect for a bird book! Thanks for sharing this, Sue.

  2. This looks wonderful. Thanks for telling me about it. I am definitely going to check this out.

  3. What a unique choice. I had no idea feathers could be used by birds for so many things. What a great find. It does sound like the perfect bird book for young readers.

  4. Love it Sue! Melissa Stewart is everywhere! ;)

  5. Oo, you got a hold of Melissa's latest, can't wait to read/see this!

  6. I remember Melissa showing off some of the early art for this book a couple of years ago at a workshop. She was so excited. And I'm thrilled for her. This book is captivating. Thanks Sue!

  7. I know of a few adults, who would be interested in this one too. Thanks for sharing it!

  8. You are celebrating birds this week. Nice choices!

    This book look like such a unique way to investigate birds. We are always thrilled when we find tiny hummingbird feathers in our yard. It is hard to image anything so delicate.

  9. What a beautiful, lovely book! We have quite a feather collection here. I think I need to find this book! Thanks for sharing!

  10. I've been waiting to pick this up. It looks like another winner from Melissa. Thanks.