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Feathers | Class #4, 2016

stewart_feathers not just for flyingBirds are great animals to study because they are found everywhere, not just in rural areas. I love looking at books about birds around this time of year here in New England. The snow is starting to melt and — if you listen carefully early in the morning — you can hear new birds who have been silent or away for the past few months.

What do you make of the multiple ways Stewart delivers her information? Some people who prefer reading books from start to finish and are confused or frustrated by this piecemeal delivery of information. Others — particularly visual learners — like being able to browse around, reading the sidebars or captions to experience the book in bits and pieces.

This kind of multiple delivery is becoming more and more common in information books for children. And of course it's similar to navigating websites with menus and sidebars and hyperlinks. Notice how Brannen uses two different styles in her illustrations: a trompe l'oeil scrapbook style and a flatter, less photographic style for the pictures of each bird in action. What does this add to the experience.

I can't resist ending this post with a little off-topic plug for my own springtime obsession: nest cams. Cornell's Lab of Ornithology links to nests all over the US, and lots of teachers check in with their classes daily or weekly. Some of them have live chat options, too, with a knowledgeable moderator ready to ask questions and keep the conversation kid-friendly.

Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is a freelance designer and consultant with degrees in studio art and children’s literature. She is the former creative director for The Horn Book, Inc., and has taught children’s literature at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogged for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.


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Tom Grasso

Like so many people before, I really enjoyed Stewart's use of common objects to make the different types of feathers and their functions come alive, which is so helpful for children to learn abstract science concepts. The range of objects Stewart used was also so imaginative. I know that I used the word "common" to describe the objects, but some of them are not really all that common, e.g., a bullfighter's cape. The use of objects to make comparisons to different kinds of feathers also created so many different entry points for a reader to understand the different kinds of feathers. I think if I used this book with younger children, I would read the main text first because it flows very much like a narrative picture book. One thing that struck me at the end of the book in the "Author's Note" is that Stewart focused on research first and then figured out which way she could frame the material to make it more engaging. This process of "framing the material" in the context of comparing feathers to objects took her three years and "countless drafts," highlighting the time, energy, thought, and care which is invested in high-quality children's books.

Posted : Apr 19, 2016 08:29

Elizabeth Dorr

As some have already mentioned, I really liked the comparisons to objects that kids would already be familiar with such as sunscreen, a sponge, or a sled. I think that small element made the information seem more relatable and easier to understand for kids of all ages. I also really enjoyed the faux scrapbook design/layout, and I can remember making these as a kid for school projects or from walks around my neighborhood collecting all kinds of things in nature. I could see this book being used as a good jumping off point for a research project where kids make their own scrapbooks about a topic as well. Finally, I also liked how each bird came from a very different place in the country or the world, and I appreciated being able to see diversity on many different levels from feather uses to geographic habitats to types of birds, etc.

Posted : Apr 19, 2016 04:21

Andrew Bauld

I thought this was a really gorgeous book. It was so clever to use analogies to real life objects to compare the different feather, but in particular unique ones like snowshoes and fishing sinkers. It makes it really accessible for kids to be able to think about everyday objects that they probably interact with to make the scientific concepts more easily understood. I have to say I learned a lot from this book, and I think that's a sign of an excellent children's book, especially scientific, informational books, that approach these ideas with a sense of curiosity and excitement that translates to both children and adults.

Posted : Apr 19, 2016 02:53

Caroline holkeboer

I really enjoyed reading this informational text! While I could see how some readers might find the delivery of text to be confusing, I found it to be actually quite engaging and fun! Like Gabby, I also thought that this book would be a great way to introduce readers to similes in a clear and concrete way. This seemed like a really unique way to present information in the story. Additionally, as I was reading, I found myself often gravitating to the written inserts rather than the large, bold text at the top of the page. Since the reader's attention is drawn to these inserts and captions throughout the text, this could lead to an important conversation with students about text features in informational texts.

Posted : Apr 19, 2016 12:16

Gabby Cohn

This is a beautiful book on many levels. The illustrations are engaging and well-placed on each page, which makes for a pleasurable read. I felt a calm, earthy energy as I read each page. Even as an adult, I learned new facts about feathers and birds. This seems like a great book to read with the entire family (even if children are at different reading levels). I appreciated how the author compared feathers and birds to everyday objects. I've found that students do better with their reading comprehension when they can make these types of comparisons. This could be a great book to use in an introductory lesson of the concept of "similes" and "metaphors" for young readers. The diversity of feathers illustrated on the front cover was a powerful choice. On a deeper level, it allows children to see how animals (including humans) can be different, but also beautiful in their own, unique ways.

Posted : Apr 19, 2016 02:04

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