Thursday, May 12, 2016

Feathers: Not Just for Flying A Book Review

Related post from Inside Outside Michiana: Bird Books and Activities

I really enjoyed Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart. I am always looking for books for early childhood that are engaging and teach concepts. This fits the bill!

The illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen were colorful and detailed, allowing the reader to understand the diversity of feathers in animals. 


Another detail I really liked is that the author really helped make the concepts relatable to the audience. For example, she shows that some feathers help birds float, shows a picture of a person in a kayak, and reinforces it through the text by saying they "float like a life jacket". We have many mute swans (unfortunately--invasive in our area), so this is a bird my children can easily understand. A variety of birds from around the world are included. I like focusing on local birds; however, it is good to see the diversity of birds around the world. Here are some roles of feathers from the book:
  • blanket (Blue Jay)*
  • cushion (Wood Duck)*
  • shade (Tricolored Heron)--I wonder if the herons in our area do this, too. 
  • protect skin (Red-tailed Hawks)*
  • soak up water ((Pallas's sandgrouse)
  • clean up messes (American Bittern)
  • distract attackers (Dark-eyed Junco)*
  • hide from predators (Northern Cardinal)*
  • make high pitched sounds (Club-winged Manakin)
  • attract attention (Peacock)*find on farms nearby
  • dig holes (Bank Swallow)*
  • carry building supplies (Rosy-faced Lovebird)
  • help birds float (Mute Swan)*invasive
  • plunge downward (Anhinga)
  • glide (Emperor Penguin)
  • sprint across snow (Willow Ptarmigan)
  • lift to fly (most birds)




There is a section that shows the various types of feathers that can be found on a bird, as well as the primary functions of each. Feather types included are filoplume, briste, down, semi plume, contour, and flight. 


At the end of the book, the author shares a note with her journey in making the book come to life. She shares that she found an article in a birding magazine several years ago and clipped it out. She liked the concept and began researching the topic in more depth, using her own nature journals, reputable Internet sites, and lots and lots of books on birds and feathers. She shares the process of sifting through the information to make it engaging for children. She went through many drafts and edits, spending 3 years on the text. When I step back to reflect on a book that seems simple enough for preschoolers, it really includes a lot of information in an engaging way. 

I might use this book in many ways to help extend the learning and help it come to life. For example, I might find actual objects that are mentioned (like the life jacket) and pictures of the birds for a matching activity. Or we might use the objects as we read the book. I also would like to have various examples of  the feathers mentioned. These would need to come from domesticated birds and/or a place that has educational permits to have feathers like this as examples. I would set up a station to explore feathers in the wind tunnel as well. If we had examples of the different types, it would be interesting to see how they all react. I personally would focus on birds from our area in the follow up activities. While I focused on this as a book for younger children, the literary examples, similes, and information can be appealing for a wider audience. I saw a suggestion in the reviews at Amazon to adapt the Fashion a Fish activity in Project Wild Aquatic. Find Melissa's Pinterest Board on the book here. Lots of great information! Her website links to a reader's theater, teachers' guide, story time plans, and so much more! Love it when authors give additional tools to use the book. There are math, language arts, and art activities. The Classroom Bookshelf  has a plethora of activities for various grade levels, including related books and a wealth of website suggestions. 

Related post from Inside Outside Michiana: Bird Books and Activities

I found this book at my local library. This post may contain affiliate links

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