By Melissa Stewart, Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Charlesbridge Press, $17.95, 32 pages
In Feathers: Not Just for Flying, children’s science author Melissa Stewart introduces readers to a multitude of ways that feathers function for birds. She tells us first that not all bird’s feathers are the same, and thus “have so many different jobs to do.” From insulation and shade to attracting attention and camouflaging, feathers go above and beyond the call of flight. For each feather function given, a different bird species is shown, including a place in North America where it can be found. A Dark-Eyed Junco uses its white tail feathers to distract potential predators in a backyard environment, while the tightly packed belly feathers of Emperor Penguins help them to slide smoothly along ice and snow in Antarctica.
Stewart discusses sixteen birds in all, along with sharing human technologies or behaviors that match up with each feather function. Sarah S. Brannen’s soft yet detailed illustrations show the birds in action, and her watercolor paintings of single feathers are even more beautiful. Geared toward elementary-age children, Feathers: Not Just for Flying is an informative and visually appealing introduction to that characteristic which makes a bird a bird: the feather.
Reviewed by Michael Barton