Perfect Picture Book Friday: FEATHERS Not Just for Flying

feathers cover

Feathers: Not Just for Flying

By Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Charlesbridge Books, 2014
Suitable for: Ages 6-9
Themes/Topics: feather types, bird behaviors

Opening: “Birds and feathers go together, like trees and leaves, like stars and the sky. All birds have feathers, but no other animals do. Most birds have thousands of feathers, but those feathers aren’t all the same. That’s because feathers have so many different jobs to do.”


Image courtesy of Charlesbridge Books

Brief Synopsis: Part scrapbook and part science journal, this is a colorful and intriguing exploration of all the ways birds can use their feathers. Elegantly rendered watercolor illustrations depict how sixteen species from across the world use their feathers in both typical and unexpected ways.

Why I Like This Book: Kids will love learning about the extremely unusual things some birds do with their feathers. For example, the male sandgrouse in the Gobi Desert soaks his absorbent belly feathers in a watering hole, then flies to the nest where his chicks suck the feathers to quench their thirst. I also liked the club-winged manakin from Ecuador that shakes his specially-ridged feathers to attract females with a high pitched whistling trill.

FEATHERS is a treat for the eyes as well as the mind! Laid out like a birder’s notebook, each spread features highly detailed images of the feathers in actual size as well as a portrait of the bird and its habitat. Scrapbook-style tidbits like stickers, drink umbrellas, and postage stamps serve to reinforce unique functions of the feathers, such as shading, digging or carrying.

The book concludes with a helpful author’s note on research, a detailed spread on feather types (filoplume, anyone?) and a reminder that it is prohibited to collect feathers from native wild birds without a specific permit or license.

Starred review from Publisher’s Weekly (December 16, 2013)

Links to Resources:

Can you imagine racing across the ocean faster than a bird can fly? Check out my review of DARE THE WIND: The Record Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey Fern at Good Reads with Ronna.


For a complete list of great picture books with helpful teaching resources, please visit Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. 



About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at or Twitter @catballoumealey
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23 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday: FEATHERS Not Just for Flying

  1. rnewman504 says:

    Great review, Cathy! This book sounds wonderful! I’m going to pick this one up for my son.

  2. tinamcho says:

    I’ve heard about this book and would love to read it. Thanks for the book review!

  3. I look forward to reading this book — and recommending it to my mom, who is a huge bird fan. Thanks for the info!

  4. What a beautiful book! We collect feathers around here. I’m always finding interesting ones on the ground in our woods. I’ll have to check this book out! Thanks!

  5. Sue Wang says:

    Very nice! Love the beautiful watercolor, the review. Informative about feathers 🙂 I would love to be a bird…

  6. Here’s to the male sandgrouse and all the beautiful creatures covered in what looks like a wonderful picture book!

  7. Joanna says:

    I love you at activities. I am so glad this book is getting so much press. Yay!

  8. This is a great book for kids! Love nonfiction books that are really done well. And I love birds.

  9. Wow! Those illustrations are stunning. I love this choice.

  10. Love the info about the male sandgrouse. Sounds like a really interesting book!

  11. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    The opening has me hooked. I hope I can find this at my library.

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