Book Corner: Feathers Not Just for Flying
Author Melissa Stewart packs a lot into “Feathers: Not Just for Flying.” The book shows the remarkably wide variety of purposes served by feathers – everything from carrying nest-building supplies, to scouring away dirt and fish oil, to creating whistle sounds to attract a mate. For each of 16 birds – hailing from all over the world – Stewart uses comparison to everyday items to help young readers understand the myriad ways feathers help birds. “Feathers can glide like a sled…” is coupled with an illustration of penguins gliding down a hill on their bellies and another illustration of a girl on a saucer sled. Inset on each page is a paragraph that gives further intriguing detail for those who are curious.
Sarah Brannen’s water color illustrations create a scrapbook effect, with images appearing to be taped or clipped to the page and “shadows” under each feather. This could be a naturalist’s journal, with artful displays of feathers and the objects whose functions they mimic: Fisherman’s weights in various sizes are arranged next to the small, medium and large feathers of the anhinga, a bird that’s able to “plunge downward like a fishing sinker.”
Publisher’s Weekly puts the age range for readers of this book at six to nine, but the depth of Stewart’s research unearths little-known bird facts that will come as a surprise to adult readers as well. Also, she’s organized the information to present brief, vivid phrases comparing feathers’ functions to everyday items which will be enjoyable to readers younger than six.
The author’s note at the end of the book details the story of how Stewart stumbled upon the idea for the book, conducted her research, and tinkered with the information to make it most engaging. Be sure to point it out to students embarking on research and writing projects, who may be heartened to learn Stewart spent three years writing this brief but beautifully pithy book.