Fur and Feathers

Midwest Book Review - September 2010

Fur and Feathers is a creative picture book with a hands-on educational approach to the scientific classification of animals. Sophia is counting animals with her mother to help her go to sleep while the wind is blowing loudly. In her dreams she meets many wonderful animals shivering in their bare skin and decides to try to make coats for each of them, using her Grandmother's sewing basket and supplies. Each animal receives the special type of coat it needs with a little extra imaginative touch, like the little red heart behind the polar bear's ear. Sophia even manages to find a jar of green slime for the frog and prickly pins and needles for the porcupine! At the end Sophia wakes up and gets a surprise visit to the zoo with her Grandmother where she sees her polar bear in the coat with the special red heart she made for him! The story of "Fur and Feathers" is perfectly enhanced by the gently comical painting and illustrations which are guaranteed to tickle kids' fancies. "Fur and Feathers" is part of an educational series that uses multi-sensory stimulating ideas for crafts and related activities to teach basic concepts introduced in the story. At the end of "Fur and Feathers" are additional pages on scientific classification, types of animals and categories, plus descriptions of skin coverings and examples of animal classification found in the story. Additional teaching activities that supplement the story are available on the Arbordale website free, plus a Spanish and English version of the "For Creative Minds" section in the book. Additional titles available in this exciting, creative series are "Astro the Stellar Sea Lion," "Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too!," "A Day On the Mountain," and "Ready, Set... WAIT!" "Fur and Feathers" is suitable for children ages 4-9, with a Lexile count of 750.
- James A. Cox

Arms of a Sister - February 2012

I enjoyed this book and so did my daughters. When Sophia goes to sleep the windstorm takes all of the outer coats off of all of her animal friends. This makes the animals cold. So Sophie, being a good friend helps to replace the missing clothes with buttons, pieces of fabric, feathers, pins and needles – you get the picture! It’s so fun to watch Sophie come up with replacement clothes for her friends, and for her friends to receive their new duds.

The illustrations are fun – and funny – and the ending, after Sophie wakes up from her dream, is very cute.

Your kids will enjoy this book as much as my family did, if not more.

Read Write Repeat - May 2012

I laughed when: The penguin had to put on a dress.
I was worried when: I saw the snake and thought it might be poisonous.
I was surprised that: The fish could stay out of the water for that long.
This book taught me: Dreams are really fun.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The animals in all of the funny outfits.
Three words that describe this book are: “Animals.” “Sophia.” “Losing their coats.”
My favorite line or phrase in the book was: “That bear has a red heart behind her ear.”
You should read this book because: It is fun, and animals put on clothes.
-Danni Age 5

Bless their Hearts - December 2011

This is an adorable book! The illustrations by Laurie are perfect for kids- bright and lively, while the text is engaging. I loved the little 'extras' that Sophia adds to her creations- like stars on the ladybug, instead of all spots. The book urges kids to be creative, and think outside the norm. I know Kiddo will love it as she loves going through sewing baskets and I wouldn't be surprised if some of her stuffed animals, get some 'adjustments' after she reads this book!

Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts - December 2011

Fur and Feathers is about a little girl who imagines creative ways to replace the coats normally worn by animals after their usual fur, feathers, scales, etc. are blown away by wind in her dream. Besides being a cute story, the book helps young kids understand the purpose of the real coverings animals have. The book contains an educational section of scientific information, which would be of interest to older kids at the end. The illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein are cute and well suited to the child's fantasy.

Just Another Review Blog - June 2011

We are personal fans of the author, Janet Halfmann. She writes stories that are sweet and educational without feeling like knowledge is being stuffed down a kid's throat. Her book, Fur and Feathers, does just that, once again

Love to Learn - May 2011

Fur and Feathers is a wonderful beginning book to introduce children to scientific classification, and even to good observation. Read this before your next trip to the zoo!

Just Another New Blog - March 2011

Fur and Feathers is another excellent children's book where Ms. Halfmann's prose goes hand in hand perfectly with some beautiful illustrations. My kids enjoyed the story of a little girl who dreams that all animals have lost their fur and the birds their feathers in a storm. She decides to help her animal friends and make new coats for them. With imagination and resourcefulness that I see in my own children, Sophia makes a new outfit for each animal, leaving her "signature" - a heart for the polar bear, a different color "necklace" for the duck. Fur and Feathers is more than just a fun book. It makes kids think about why animals look the way they do. In addition, the book promotes love of nature and creativity. At the end of Fur and Feathers, there is a section where inquisitive children can learn about scientific classification of animals and skin coverings. Entertaining, well written, beautifully illustrated, creative and educational - in other words, all I want to see in a book I read with my children.

BlogCritics Books - March 2011

I first learned about the importance of make-believe play while attending graduate school at Bansktreet College of Education in New York. The whole concept made a lot of sense to me.

Children must be provided with ample opportunities to put their imagination to full use. According to Jean Piaget, this is one way children can develop cognitively.

Janet Halfmann’s book Fur and Feathers is about the best book I have read that showcases how far a child can go with his or her imagination.

I love this well-written book. If you are a parent who is interested in showing your child the importance of imaginative play, this is the book for you.

Lastly, illustrator Laurie Allen Klein does an exceptional job bringing the story to full life with her vivid art work.

Momma's Gone Over the Wall - March 2011

The story is a sweet tale of helping others and thinking outside the box. It's also accompanied by wonderful illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein. Little Man adored the story and enjoyed coming up with his own ideas on ways he would cover the animals with things around our house.

Live, Learn, Love - February 2011

I appreciate a story that nor only has adorable illustrations, but that draws my daughter in and educates her too.

Family Literacy and You - February 2011

This story will fast become a favorite with your children.  And guess what? You'll get a FUN new game you can play in the car, at bedtime, while waiting at the doctor's office...

Homeschool Book Review - November 2010

Halfmann, Janet.  Fur and Feathers (published in 2010 by Arbordale Publishing, 612 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Suite A-2, Mount Pleasant, SC  29464).  What would a polar bear do without its fur, a duck do without its feathers, and a fish do without its scales?  Sophia is asleep, but a howling wind awakens her.  Her mother suggests that they count animals, and Sophia goes back to sleep.  But she has a dream that the howling winds whisk away the fur, feathers, scales, and other coverings from her animal friends.  She shares some of her clothes with them, but her things don’t fit them right, so she decides to sew each one the right “coat.”  How will she make quills for the porcupine and get slime for the frog?  And what will she do for the ladybug?

Arbordale has published a wealth of books that integrate concepts related to science or nature with stories that children can read and enjoy.  Author Janet Halfmann and illustrator Laurie Allen Klein combine to bring the ideas of animal coverings and classification to life in an imaginative way.  The animals included in this book are the polar bear, duck, porcupine, frog, fish, snake, snail, and ladybug.  The four-page “For Creative Minds” section at the back of the book provides more information and activities related to animal classification and skin coverings.  Additional cross-curricular teaching activities, interactive quizzes, and more are available at Arbordale’s website.  Fur and Feathers is a great way to introduce these subjects to young readers.
- Wayne Walker

Honey Mommy - December 6, 2010

My two little boys absolutely LOVED this book. The story of Sophia helping the animals find the right coverings was engaging and had even my two-year-old spellbound. I have read it to the boys numerous times and it is quickly becoming one of their new favorites.

Not only was the story wonderful, the illustrations were a lot of fun and my boys even laughed out loud at some of the pictures, like when the animals had on Sophia's clothes. They loved the special touches that Sophia added to the animals coverings and the mystery of whether or not Sophia's dream could actually be real when Sophia sees a polar bear at the zoo with a heart over its ear.

As a librarian, I loved that my boys were learning about animals while being engaged in the story. Jonah was interested to learn about why all the animals needed different skins and I am planning on using this story in the co-operative preschool that I help teach we start our units on different types of animals.

If you are looking for a fun and educational story for your children, this is one that they will love. So add it to your Christmas list! I was pleased to discover Janet Halfmann, who is a wonderful author as well as illustrator Laurie Allen Klein. Together they make an award-winning team, as this book recently won the Gold Moonbeam Award for best preschool picture book.

Chrissy's World of Books - November 2010

When Sophia dreams that howling winds whisk the fur and feathers right off her animal friends, she shares some of her clothes with them. But her clothing doesn't work well for the animals. Seeing their disappointment, she offers to sew each one the right coat. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones. And how will Sophia make a prickly coat for Porcupine?

The award-winning team of Halfmann and Klein (Little Skinks Tail) reunite to bring animal coverings (and classification) to life in an imaginative way. Sophias friends include Duck, Fish, Frog, Ladybug, Polar Bear, Porcupine, Snail, and Snake. The For Creative Minds educational section includes: Scientific Classification, Skin Coverings, and Animal Classification. Additional Teaching Activities and Interactive Quizzes are available on the Arbordale Publishing website.

My little girl just loved this story. I would read it to her and she would point at the beautifully illustrated pictures. She loved the animals in this story and would keep pointing and asking me questions... So this was a great book to teach her why the animals had different type of skin to keep them warm... and what a fun way for her to learn about it.

The back of the book has all kinds of facts about each animal that was featured in the book and few that weren't. The back of the book helps teach your child about scientific animal classification and skin coverings. With the colorful pictures, cute story and educational facts I would recommend this book for any child. I would give it an easy five stars from my household.

Jean Little Library Reviews - November 2010

Sophia is enjoying a bedtime story about animals with her mother when she falls asleep. In her dreams, the animals lose their fur, feathers, and scales and she has to replace them. She first tries clothes, but then realizes the animals need special coverings. With her grandma's sewing basket, she makes just the right thing for each animal. Information on classification, various animal skin coverings, and more as well as activities are included. I like Laurie Klein's cheerful illustrations. The animals losing all their fur etc. is a bit strange, but on the whole this is an interesting story with a neatly woven nonfiction element. Recommended, especially for school libraries. Review copy received from Arbordale.
- Jean Little

Mama Smiles - November 2010

I found online reviews of Janet Halfmann’s Fur and Feathers intriguing, so I was thrilled to receive the opportunity to review it myself! I think the story of a young girl making new coverings for the animals after their fur and feathers get blown off in a storm is very creative and original (see the book trailer here). My kids agree; we’ve read this book several times since receiving it. I’m particularly fond of the fun twist at the end of the story.

Arbordale has a wonderful homepage for this book, complete with an author interview and 57 pages of activities, transforming this book into a fantastic tool for learning about animal classification! We printed out and laminated the animal cards, and my kids enjoy talking about which animals live on the land and which live on the water, which have fur, which have feathers, and which have scales. They also like to match the drawn animals up to the photographs of the same animal.

As someone who loves to sew, I can’t help wishing that the new coverings Sophia creates looked more sewn and less like true animal fur and feathers, although Laurie Allen Klein’s illustrations make up for this with their warmth, color, and friendliness.

The Children's and Teens' Book Connection - October 2010

In this imaginative new book by Janet Halfmann, Sophia is awakened by the howling winds. Her mother suggests they count animals. Soon Sophia is fast asleep, dreaming of a howling wind that blows all the animals out of their coats. Sophia offers the animals her clothes, but they aren’t very comfortable for her new friends. Then Sophia pulls out her grandma’s sewing box to see what she can find to make the “right coat” for each animal.

Fur and Feathers is a delightful story from the award-winning team of Janet Halfmann and Laurie Allen Klein. Halfmann’s unique and engaging story is perfectly complemented by Klein’s stunning and beautiful artwork. Young readers will be captivated by this tale of a young girl who helps out her furry and feathered friends.  This book takes the idea of counting sheep to an all new and fun level.

If you visit Halfmann’s website, she will share the inspiration behind Fur and Feathers. You can view the video trailer below.

An educational section at the back of the book can be used to teach youngsters about different animals and their skin coverings.

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more books by Janet Halfmann!
- Cheryl Malandrinos

Story Time Under the Stars - October 2010

In Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann Sophia goes to sleep while counting animals, and in her dream she meets animals that have lost their fur and coverings.

After realizing that none of the animals are comfortable in Sophia's own clothes, which she has let them borrow, she brings out her grandmother's sewing kit in an effort to help the naked animals. Each animal line up and tell Sophia what kind covering they need and why, and she starts making new tailored coverings for all the animals but with her own little personal twist.

Fur and Feathers include a section called For Creative Minds that teaches children about animal classification and animal coverings. Halfmann has made an easy-to-understand guide on the otherwise complicated topics of animal classification and coverings, and this is a great book for introducing children to the fundamentals of biology.

Laurie Allen Klein's illustrations make Halfmann's story come alive through beautiful animal images with a soft touch and details that make the children look an extra time at each page. The animals each have their very own charm that clearly expresses their personalities and animal traits.

My oldest sons ages 4 and 8 paid very careful attention to the different animal coverings in Fur and Feathers, and they seemed to really understand the creative ideas that Sophia had for making the right covering for each animal. While my youngest son did not catch the surprise ending, my oldest son paused and understood the connection between dreams and reality.

Fur and Feathers is story that helps children believe in their dreams and imaginations, all while teaching children about the different animal coverings and why each animal needs to have their very own kind of covering.

You can learn more about Fur and Feathers on YouTube.

The Book Chook - October 2010

Recently I had the opportunity to read a children's picture book online. It is Fur and Feathers, written by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, and published by Arbordale. I was able to read the book on my computer screen, pause as long as I wanted on each page, or read along while I listened to the story being read aloud - a great help to emergent readers. In my ideal world, all children's books will be published both in print and as e-Books, because both answer definite needs.

I've read Halfmann's Little Skink's Tail and very much enjoyed it. Fur and Feathers didn't disappoint. It's a deceptively simple story, but written with lots of opportunities for young readers to giggle and learn:

When Sophia dreams that howling winds whisk the fur and feathers right off her animal friends, she shares some of her clothes with them. But her clothing doesn’t work well for the animals. Seeing their disappointment, she offers to sew each one the “right” coat. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones. And how will Sophia make a prickly coat for Porcupine?

Klein's illustrations are gorgeous. She walks the fine line between realism and entertainment with her animal characters and gives us plenty of both. My favourite double page spread is the one where Sophie helps the animals squash themselves into her clothes - delightful!

The back of the book has a section, For Creative Minds, which has a simple introduction to the classification of species. This is such a boon to home schoolers and other parents who want to extend the literature they share with their children to other subjects and learning activities.

I love the idea of children's books that are classified as fiction and tell a story, but also enable children to learn about the world around them. Arbordale are one of my favourite US publishers. To me, they are a fine model of how value can be added to a book purchase by providing supplementary material for it. Take time to explore their website. It's generously packed with resources parents and teachers can use. I was also impressed by what they offer public schools and libraries: one- year, free access to all 55 of their eBooks through their School and Library Resource Grant program. (This is for US schools, but International schools and homeschool groups are encouraged to contact them and discuss. Wonderful opportunity!)
- Susan Stephenson

Mom of 3 Dolls - October 2010

Fur and Feathers (Arbordale Publishing, Aug 2010) is a fun story of creativity, friendship, and animal coverings. When whipping winds whisk the clothes off Sophia's animal friends in a dream, she shares her human clothes with them. That doesn't work well at all, so she comes up with a creative plan, thanks to her grandma's huge sewing box. Each animals line up and explain what they need and why. Sophia also adds her extra special touches to them. The book was written by Janet Halfmann, author of more than 30 children's book! Illustrated by a freelance artist for nearly 20 years, Laurie Allen Klein.

Each Arbordale title also comes in eBook form. The eBooks have Auto-flip, Auto-read, 3-D page curling, and English and Spanish text and audio capabilities. They give all schools, public libraries, and homeschool associations one-year, free access to all 55 of the eBooks through our School and Library Resource Grant program.

In addition, each Arbordale title comes with: "For Creative Minds" education section in the back of every book, Teaching Activities, 3 Interactive Quizzes, and Related Websites per title at publisher's website.

Room to Grow - October 2010

"When Sophia dreams that howling winds whisk the fur and feathers right off her animal friends, she shares some of her clothes with them. But her clothing doesn't work well for the animals. Seeing their disappointment, she offers to sew each one the right coat. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones. And how will Sophia make a prickly coat for Porcupine? The award-winning team of Halfmann and Klein (Little Skinks Tail) reunite to bring animal coverings (and classification) to life in an imaginative way. Sophias friends include Duck, Fish, Frog, Ladybug, Polar Bear, Porcupine, Snail, and Snake. The For Creative Minds educational section includes: Scientific Classification, Skin Coverings, and Animal Classification. Additional Teaching Activities and Interactive Quizzes are available on the Arbordale Publishing website." ~Amazon Product Description

I usually give a list of related classroom activities related to my BOOK OF THE DAY, but Arbordale Publishing provides teachers with a list of learning activities in the "For Creative Minds and Teaching Activities sections

Here are a few additional activities to try:

National Writing for Children Center - September 2010

On a stormy, windy night Sophia is awakened. Her mother suggests they count animals to get her back to sleep. Once asleep, Sophia dreams of her animal friends. The wind swishes, swirls and spins the animals so harshly it takes off their fur, feathers, shells and scales.

Sophia lends them some of her own clothing for protection, but the frowns on their faces let her know this will not work. There are so many animals to cover, but Sophia has an idea. She remembers her grandmothers sewing basket, which is filled with fur, feathers, pins, sequins and so much more.

In no time Sophia has managed to sew a fur coat for a polar bear, she put together feathers for a duck, pins for a porcupine and slime for a frog. She has even managed shiny sequins for a fish with a little dab of slime to help her go “swish, swish, swish lickety-split.”

Each animal gets the special covering they need plus a little something extra. You will have to read this wonderfully illustrated story to see the extra special touches Sophia has created. And what the animals think about it.

Fur And Feathers is a must have for families, teachers and home schoolers. The back of the book contains “Creative Mind” activities along with science facts and information about the animals discussed in the story. This book is a great way for children to interact and learn about animals and their various coverings and habitats.
- Kristi Bernard

The Reading Tub - October 2010

Summary: The howling wind woke Sophia. With her mother's help, she quickly went back to sleep. In her dream, the wind had blown so hard it took the animals' coats. First she lent them all her dress-up outfits, but that didn't work. Next she crafted new coats, just like their old ones, from the materials she had hand. From lady bug to polar bear, each was as good as new. This picture book story has lots of nonfiction content about animal skins and how they work for each species.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book, learning to read

Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 8; read yourself: 9 to 12

Interest Level: 5 to 10

Reading Level: 3.4

Age of Child: Read by a nearly 9-year-old girl. She also listened to an audio version of the book.

Little Kid Reaction: As an animal lover, our daughter was instantly drawn to this book. She laughed to see the animals in costumes, and then giggled with each of the new "skins" that Sophia crafted for her visitors.

Big Kid Reaction: What a great way to tell a story. Kids will relate to Sophia and her desire to help. There is a subtle message about using what you have handy to meet your needs, but for most audiences that will probably have to be pointed out. They are too busy enjoying the story. The author does a great job comparing the animal's real skin with "objects" the kids know in their everyday lives. This will reinforce learning.

Pros: A light-hearted story, beautiful illustrations, and a book jam-packed with great information make this a fun book for everyone ... including mom and dad. This is a good selection for a mixed-age audience.

Cons: As always, the back of the book and the Arbordale website have lots of complementary information to reinforce learning. Given that Sophia created new skins for the animals, it would have been nice to have a couple "hands on" projects where the kids could make animals themselves.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. We read (and listened to) an online version of the book, but this is one I'd like to have on the shelf. For a preschooler it is a nice story for bedtime, offering comfort from scary sounds. For elementary-aged students, it will introduce and reinforce science facts.


Educational Themes: There is plenty to explore with all of the details about animals and their skins. There are also references to animal habitat that can be explored further.

Notes: The author asked that we read a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile.

New Age Mama - September 2010

Books are a big part of our daily routine. I always read at least one book to my children at night before bedtime. Now that Gabby and Frankie are getting older, sometimes they are the ones to do the reading. The baby is starting to get more and more excited about books, especially ones with bright illustrations. We recently received a wonderful children's book called Fur and Feathers that is quickly becoming a family favorite.

Fur and Feathers  was written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein. It is an adorable story about a little girl named Sophia. She dreams about the heavy winds blowing the fur and feathers off of all her animal friends. They are shivering and cold and its her job to find them new clothes. When her own clothes aren't right, she sets out to find just the right materials to make new coats for all her friends. With every new outfit she creates, she adds a special touch. Its a cute and fun story that will enchant children while teaching them about the different types of animals.  My kids thought the story was fun and they loved the beautiful artwork.

Fur and Feathers is only one of dozens of wonderful children's books by Janet Halfmann. Check out Arbordale Publishing to see others books by Janet as well as many other talented authors.
- Laura Deluca

For the Love of Books - September 2010

I'd like to thanks to Arbordale Publishing and author Janet Halfmann for providing me an ebook of Fur and Feathers to review. Sophia has a hard time falling asleep because of a storm that is raging outside so her mother has her start counting animals. She falls asleep while counting and has a dreams that the animals are caught in the storm and lose their clothes (feathers, fur and coats), they are just bare skin. She tries to dress them in her clothes, but that doesn't work. So she finds her grandmother's sewing basket and creatively makes each of them a new coat with items she finds in the basket. If you enjoy Jan Brett's books I believe you be equally happy and impressed with Halfmann's Fur and Feathers.

This is a very wonderfully fun and creative story. The pictures are just as wonderful, bright and beautiful. I believe that any younger child would love this delightful picture book. Christmas is coming and why not give them a book. This one would be wonderfully loved and cherished I'm sure.
- Abi Buening

Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile - September 2010

The Bibliophile and I read a great book this morning that I thought I would share for Science Sunday. Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann.

Sophia has a dream (or was it?) about a strong wind so fierce that it whips the coats right off of a motley assortment of animals.  Determined to help remedy the situation, she grabs her grandmother's sewing basket and sets about making suitable coverings for them - a warm white coat for the polar bear, prickly quills for the porcupine, slimy scales for the fish, etc.  This was a fun read, and Laurie Allen Klein's illustrations are lovely and engaging.

The end of the book contains a wonderful brief educational section on animal coverings and classification.  We didn't do a formal companion activity or lesson (although we might have some fun in my fabric stash later talking about which fabrics might be suitable for different animals).  We did sit for awhile with the educational pages, though, talking about what the word "mammal" means, as I quizzed him a little with simple questions like, "which animal would need a nice warm coat because he lives somewhere cold?" etc.  Obviously I kept things simple for my almost-3 year old, but this could be a wonderful resource for slightly older children too.

The educational pages at the back of the book are actually available for free for perusing in pdf form on the Arbordale Publishing website, as are the educational sections of about 50 more titles!  This is a great resource for homeschooling -- it allows you to peek at the educational components, decide what might be useful in a unit study, and then get the books that will work for you.  I think I'll print the animal classifications page later so we can play with dividing up his plastic toy animals into a few simple categories.  I have been spending a lot of time on the site this morning, and I suspect that we will be also be hunting down a number of other titles!

As for the Bibliophile, it was two thumbs up from him.  He said "I want to read another e-book!" as soon as we finished reading our electronic copy, and he informed me that he liked the book, because "it had a lot of animals."  He sat in rapt attention for the first half, and then started asking appropriate questions during the second half.
- Lynn

Health, Beauty, Children & Family - September 2010

In this complimentary delightful e-Book that I had a chance to review, I found another great example of how author, Janet Halfmann, can make learning fun with the use of animals.  Janet captures the magic of animals in such detail that it brings them into a whole new light.  I always enjoy reading the books by Janet and can't wait to read them to my daughters.  In Fur and Feathers, Sophia has a dream of great winds whisking the fur and feathers off all her animal friends.  Faced with what to do for these helpless animals, Sophia's creativity uncovers beautiful new ways to cover her friends and teaches a great lesson on sharing, giving and helping others.

Another great feature of Janet's books end with a learning experience for children. For Creative Minds further challenges children's to learn in a fun way.  There are four pages of fun learning to enjoy.

This book is recommended for ages 4-9 and is published by Arbordale Publishing. Both my girls enjoyed the story as did I.
- Judy

Good Books for Kids - August 2010

What a great read and learning experience for the little ones this work is! Fur and Feathers is targeted for the 4-8 age groups which is just about right. It is quite satisfying to find a children's book that will truly entertain while at the same time teach. This is one of those books.

There is a howling windstorm outside and little Sophia is being read to by her mother. The book is about animals; all kinds of animals from bears to ducks to snakes. As most children will, Sophia falls asleep while being read to. And the dream begins!

The wind swirls and blows, round and round and as it goes faster all of the animals are caught up in the whipping storm. Alas! As the wind blows off go their coats. Fur, shells, feathers, scales and such go flying away leaving the poor animals quite unclothed. Sophia of course wants to help and goes to her closet and finds every piece of clothing she owns and dresses the animals. But this will not do at all! A pig in a jogging outfit, a seal in a suit, a penguin in a tutu! No, it will not do at all.

Our little Sophia is a creative little thing though and pulls out grandma's huge sewing basket. It is full of furs, feathers, sequins and such. Sophia goes to work. Measuring, cutting, stitching and sewing she works throughout the night. Of course by morning the creative little girl has all of the animals "dressed" as they should be dressed; in their natural cover!

Of course the first thing this book teaches is the art of being creative. The author and artist have taken the brick-a-brack found in the sewing boxes of all grandmothers and shown just what can be done with a bit if imagination and ingenuity. (Hey, remember that this is a dream).

Secondly, very sophisticated lessons are being taught as the fantasy is being played out. Those lessons include a very good look at animal classification. What is the difference between mammals, fish, reptiles, gastropods, birds, amphibians and insects? We get a very basic but good summation of the breakdown between kingdom, phylum, family, class, genus, order and species. The author takes a close look at what animals are truly covered with, i.e. hair, hard casing, scales or plates, feathers, wet scales, shells and skin.

All these little lessons are presented in a very subtle way and the child is actually learning much without being truly aware of it. This is truly a fun book to read!

The last four pages of the book are an addition for the adult reader or teacher and cover the subjects of animal classification and coverings quite well and present quite a number of facts and projects for the child and the teacher.

The text is quite well done and very, very readable. This is complimented by some very skillful art work by Laurie Allen Klein. The text and illustrations go perfectly.

As with all of the Arbordale Publications, this work is ideal for the individual child, the class room and would be great for home-schoolers. The book I am reviewing is soft cover and is quite well made...very stout and attractive. I am quite familiar with the hardcover versions this company produces and whether it be soft or hardcover, it is a quality product.
- Don Blakenship

Katie's Nesting Spot - August 2010

One of our favorite children's authors Janet Halfmann has a newly released book. I'm a stop on her very first book blog tour! You might remember my reviews of her titles Little Ant on Park Street and Little Skink's Tail. Today she joins us for an author interview in promotion of her new book Fur and Feathers! Please view the book trailer below to learn a little bit about it (if you're reading this via email subscription please click over to see it.)

ER liked the story right away, intrigued by the idea of giving the animals new coverings. We love crafty things around here and had a lot of fun talking about how funny a polar bear would look with things like pom poms instead of fur.

She also loved how Sophia added her own touches to the animals like little stars on the ladybug instead of just dots. In fact the next time we saw a lady bug she inspected it for stars. She was a little disappointed that it wasn't Sophia's lady bug! I thought that was really cute. The story must have really come alive to my four year old.

While this story had a big shot of fantasy and make believe in it, there were still plenty of opportunities to talk about things science concepts like classification. I was very impressed by the online Teaching Activities provided by publisher Arbordale to support the title. The art scavenger hunt and the various sets of animal sorting cards were great tools to use with Fur and Feathers. A very imaginative story with beautifully detailed illustrations, I could think of many educational connections for it. It'd be a great addition to a personal or classroom library!

Can you describe the writing process that went into writing Fur and Feathers?

I noticed on Arbordale Publishing’s website that they were looking for a book on “animal wraps.” Right away, that topic intrigued me, so I brainstormed possibilities. Some of my ideas:

In the end, I kept the windy storm, but made it a dream storm, so the story could be more fanciful. The monster became a little girl named Sophia. I thought it would be silly and fun for Sophia to share her clothes with the animals, but the story needed something more. That’s when I thought of the huge sewing box I always had handy to fix or create whatever while my kids were growing up.

Sophia could use items from the sewing box to create new coats for the animals. It took lots of imagining to figure out what items might work to create some of the coats, such as the pinecones for the snake’s dry scales.

As I was writing the story, Sophia (or perhaps the kid in me) wanted to add special touches to the coats. Coming up with these, such as the little red heart behind the polar bear’s ear, was one of my favorite parts of writing the story.

How long does it take for a book to go from idea to published?

It varies greatly. Fur and Feathers took me only a few weeks to research and write. But other books, such as Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, which required a great deal of research, took me about two years to write, counting all the revisions.

Once a manuscript is bought by a publisher (this can take years of submitting), it usually takes eighteen months or more before the book comes out. For Fur and Feathers, the time from idea to published book was about 2 1/2 years.

Are you involved in the illustration process?

The publisher almost always chooses the illustrator. Publishers work with many different illustrators and know who will do the best job on a particular book. Usually, the illustrator and author do not even talk to one another. I think it’s done this way so that the illustrator is free to create his/her vision of the story, just as I was free to write the story.

For some books, I’ve been shown sketches, mostly to see if something was inaccurate. But for other books, I didn’t see the art until the book was published.

The illustrator of Fur and Feathers is Laurie Allen Klein, who also illustrated my Arbordale book Little Skink’s Tail. I was ecstatic when I found out Laurie would be doing the pictures! She even put Little Skink in the new book (look at the bottom of the whirling storm) and Little Skink’s Tail is on the bookshelf in Sophia’s room. What fun!

What kind of research went into writing Fur and Feathers?

I read every book I could find on animal coats and coverings, which I discovered was not many. I also looked for everything on animal coverings that I could find on the internet, which had many great resources from zoos and other educational and science organizations. I wanted to include critters from each animal group to make the book as educational as possible. Once I had chosen the animals to feature, I also researched their specific coverings.

What do you hope readers will take away or learn from your books?

I hope kids will come away with an appreciation and respect for all of nature. And I hope they will realize how every part of our world is interconnected—how the lives of people and polar bears and bats and fireflies all affect one another in so many ways.

What kind of research went into writing Fur and Feathers?

I read every book I could find on animal coats and coverings, which I discovered was not many. I also looked for everything on animal coverings that I could find on the internet, which had many great resources from zoos and other educational and science organizations. I wanted to include critters from each animal group to make the book as educational as possible. Once I had chosen the animals to feature, I also researched their specific coverings.

What do you hope readers will take away or learn from your books?

I hope kids will come away with an appreciation and respect for all of nature. And I hope they will realize how every part of our world is interconnected—how the lives of people and polar bears and bats and fireflies all affect one another in so many ways.

Pudgy Penguin Perusals - August 2010

Today it is my pleasure to introduce Laurie Allen Klein, illustrator for Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann. I asked Laurie to tell us a little bit about how she executes her craft and here's what she had to share.

The Art of Illustration by Laurie Allen Klein Like most children, I have always loved drawing; and I had a pretty rich fantasy life, with lots of imaginary friends and dressing up as my favorite characters. It was natural to combine my early scribbles with those little internal stories. My childhood was also spent with lots of children's books, Disney movies, and - until we moved from Philadelphia when I was 8 years old - this wonderful local television show (Cartoon Corners General Store) where the host, Gene London, drew pictures as he told stories, fairy tales, and myths. It is not hyperbole to say I knew from the moment I could clutch a crayon that I wanted to illustrate. I don't know that I had a clear idea of what the actual career was called of course, but I knew it would entail drawing pictures to accompany some sort of narrative. Interestingly enough, looking back I don't think my approach to the process has significantly changed from that day till now. It starts with the words, pictures almost immediately come to mind, and I just put those images down on paper.

That's the short-hand version any way, in reality of course it is a bit more complicated than that. And let me stress, this is my own approach to illustrating, or drawing anything in general (I can't speak for other artists). Whether it is a children's picture book, spot art for a magazine article, a 22' wall mural, or a logo design I go about it the same way - once I get the assignment i immediately go to the book shelf and start looking up reference information. I love, love LOVE doing research. And I adore books. I can easily spend an entire day in a book store (and have. My daughter and I once spent 7 hours in our local Barnes & Noble) so really I use any new project as an excuse to add to my personal library.

I have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in just about every room so most of the time I just have to go to the appropriate shelf to find a couple books on the subject at hand, but that won't stop me from making a quick trip to the library or bookstore as well. And now, of course, there is the Internet (tho personally that isn't nearly as much fun). For "Fur and Feathers" I not only had to find references of the main animal characters featured in the story, I also had to look up other birds and fish and insects and animals to fill the background, little girl poses, bedroom layout ideas, a giant sewing box, and a grandmother image. Besides books on mammals, reptiles, fish, insects and birds I also pawed through my photo albums (the grandmother in the story is based on my mother), had a little girl down the street pose for Sophia's body (Sophia's face, however, was loosely based on my own daughter), and physically pulled together an enormous sewing/craft box. Then, armed with all that research material I went to the art room and started doing rough thumbnail sketches (as the name suggests - small loose, very rough line scribbles of all the proposed illustrations. In this stage, I don't worry too much about what the finished characters will actually look like. Mostly I'm just trying to work out the page layouts - figuring out the best way to portray the action. The characters might be simple blobs or stick figures, sometimes they are a little more fully realized, but either way they are mostly place savers and I try not to get too bogged down in the specifics until I have a better idea of how the whole page will be filled. I might do a couple different thumbnails, trying out different looks, or I might rework the initial sketch and clean it up a bit - there are no hard and fast rules. Some pictures practically draw themselves and remain the same throughout the entire process (the dream vortex illustration in F&F is such a picture), others are more of a struggle, or change with each pass. And there are usually a couple passes as I develop the picture.

From sketchy, loose thumbnail there is usually a cleaner thumbnail. Still small and simple, but pretty much clearly showing the direction I intend to take. The next step is enlarging the little sketch to more manageable size - 100% for a book or just in a workable proportion if it's a wall mural or something unusually large or over-sized. At this size I tend to discover the weaknesses in my originally rough idea - I mean, what looks fine as a two inch sketch often doesn't work nearly as well in an 8.5 x 11 format - so I fine-tune the illustration at this stage. I'll redraw the illustration several times as I perfect the pose or the layout. It is also here that I toy around with more interesting perspectives or points of view. The first thumbnail is usually a pretty straight forward, flat, landscape-type view but when I see it enlarged I often find it's kind of dull or bland or mundane so then I go off on another research hunt - looking for different animal poses perhaps, or more interesting backgrounds. Anything to make the picture more fun and entertaining. When I finally have the picture sketched to my satisfaction Ido a final, clean Black & White line version (pencil on tracing paper by the way) before going to color or final art. I send a copy of the line drawing off for approval and once I get the official okay i enlarge the drawings 115% (per Arbordale's request for printing purposes) and transfer the line drawing to the good paper (or the wall or the canvas - whatever the finished product is going to be). Then I go to color. Usually a two month process (at least for 12 to 13 page children's picture books).

I really just skimmed the surface of drawing in general and Fur and Feathers in particular here, but hope it has given you at least a little taste of the process. I've been writing a blog about both the work and the book on my web site, so if you're interested in a more detailed look to an illustrator's cluttered mind please feel free to go over to to see more art and/or read the Fur and Feathers account (currently up to 7 chapters I think). Any place where words and pictures meet. And sometimes... the picture says it all!
- Kaye

Write for a Reader - August 2010

Today I have the privilege of interviewing the illustrator of the newly released children's book, Fur and Feathers, by Janet Halfmann.  Laurie Klein graciously answered some questions for me just for this blog tour and I'm so excited to share her thoughts with you.  I hope you enjoy what she has to say.  If so, please leave her a comment and let her know your thoughts.

WFAR - Please tell us a little about yourself.

Laurie - I guess the biggest thing is, I have always loved to draw and from my earliest memory made up stories and illustrated them (i even still have some of those early efforts). I grew up in Philadelphia, PA (before moving to Florida when i was 8) and i distinctly remember one of the strongest creative influences from that time - a local kids program, "Cartoon Corners General Store" hosted by Gene London. I tell this story a lot (it comes up in every bio) but i really do credit him (along with Disney animation and being read to as a child) as my inspiration. Between showing cartoons and other character bits on the program, Mr. London would tell stories (fairy tales, myths, legends) and illustrate them on big sheets of paper. That was truly my first introduction into the art of illustration and i have wanted to do it ever since. Art major in school, art studio major in college (Maryville College in maryville, TN), then worked as a graphic and paste-up artist in Atlanta, GA before deciding to do freelance illustration full time. Which i have been doing pretty steadily (with breaks to be a mom) for the past 25 years.

WFAR - How were you chosen to illustrate Fur and Feathers?

Laurie - As a freelance artist and illustrator you are always sending out samples and taking your portfolio around trying to drum up interest and, of course, work. It's actually the hardest part of the job (and, truth be told, my least favorite). I was showing my portfolio and my work caught the attention of Loran Wlodarski who had written a children's story and was looking for an illustrator. We wound up collaborating on the book (If A Dolphin Were A Fish) and Loran spent 7 years sending it out to publishers with little success. Ironically it was Loran's expertise as a science writer that brought him to the attention of Arbordale (they contacted him about checking the content of one of their new books). He told them about "Dolphin" and they liked both the story and my illustrations so that is how i got my foot in the door (or perhaps that should be pencil). After that, when SD would get a manuscript that they felt suited my style, they would call and see if i would be interested in illustrating it. I had already done three animal books for SD so F&F was right up my alley.

WFAR - Have you worked with the author and/or publishers before?

Laurie - Yes, on both counts. My very next book for Arbordale (after If A Dolphin Were A Fish) was Little Skink's Tail, written by Janet Halfmann. Skink was my second book for SD and my first book working with Janet and since Janet is the author of F&F i couldn't resist tucking in a few little "Easter Eggs" (to use a DVD term) in the new book. On page 2 - the wind storm - Little Skink is rather prominently shown getting sucked into the vortex and on page where Sophia id getting the jar of slime for the frog, Little Skink's Tail (along with my two other books) is on the shelf.

WFAR - What materials or techniques did you use to illustrate Fur and Feathers?

Laurie - F&F was done with Prismacolor color pencils on Stonehenge paper. I tend to apply a lot of layers when i color - i start with Black Grape and work out all the shadows and darker areas then start applying various shades. It's all a bit trial and error but i discovered a great technique in a color pencil book that i use pretty extensively - once the pencil is down on the paper i take a brush and go over it with odorless mineral spirits and it helps blend it and make the color a bit more fluid (almost like water color).

WFAR - What else have you illustrated?

Laurie - As noted I have done 4 books for Arbordale: If A Dolphin Were A Fish by Loran Wlodarski, Little Skink's Tail by Janet Halfmann, Where Should Turtle Be? by Susan Ring, Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann, and I am currently working on my 5th book for SD, Meet the Planets by John McGranaghan, which comes out Spring 2011.

Prior to my wok for Arbordale I illustrated 4 books for Peachtree Publishers in Atlanta - Out To Pasture, Over What Hill?, Older But Wilder, and One More Time all by Effie Leland Wilder. And I have done spot illustrations for several educational books, camp field guides, and activity booklets for SeaWorld Adventure Park.

WFAR - What are your favorites?

Laurie - Oo, this could be dangerous - and lengthy - but I'll try to keep it to the top few in each category.

Author - depending on my obsession of the moment I tend to read a lot of history/science/philosophy/non-fiction books so "author" doesn't come into play much. I have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on every free wall so the list is pretty eclectic but I DO still have some favorites (particularly from childhood) that come to mind: Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ursula K. LeGuin, Diane Ackerman, Carl Sagan, J. R. R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne, Joan Aiken, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Marguerite De Angeli,. Marguerite Henry, Austin Tappan Wright, Barbara Tuchman, Lois Lowry, Karen Cushman, Charles Dickens....

     Food - Everything - really. I love trying new things (and want desperately to eat some of the weird stuff Andrew Zimmern eats on Bizarre Foods) but hummus is a particular favorite. And sushi, pizza, and chips & cheese (a family snack food must).

     Color - the quick answer would be blue, but technically I really like all colors, or at least many different hues and shades of all colors.

     Book - If my author list was eclectic (and long) my favorite books list is even longer so I'll just keep this list to the books that had a big impact on me or i go back to time and a gain and have read more than two or three times: Lord of the Rings, Islandia, Little Women, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Dispossessed, ...And Ladies of the Club, Beautiful Joe, Black Beauty, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Guns of August, Cross Creek, A Distant Mirror, Catherine - Called Birdie.
- That of course is an abbreviated list of individual titles but in terms of favorite Subject Matter in general - I have entire shelves of books dedicated to polar explorers and exploration, travel, Florida (history and stories), whales & dolphins, art & artists, science & science fiction and - of course - children's books!!

I could go on forever, and you did list "Other", but I'll end with...

Artist - As with authors and books the list is long, but a few key influences come to mind (and because i simply can't leave them out) - Tasha Tudor, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, N. C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Edmund Dulac, Edward Gorey, Alan Lee, John Howe, Trina Schart Hyman, Brian Froud, Charlie Harper, M. C. Escher, Toulouse-Lautrec, and the 9 Old Men of Disney Animation. But let me stress - this just scratches the surface!!!!!
- Shelly B - August 2010

Janet Halfmann is the award-winning author of over thirty children’s books.  Her latest, Fur and Feathers is a fun, imaginative tale of animal coverings:

When Sophia dreams that howling winds whisk the fur and feathers off her animal friends, she shares her clothes with them. But her clothing doesn’t work well for the animals. Seeing their disappointment, she finds her grandma’s huge sewing basket and offers to sew each animal the “right” coat. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones. And how will Sophia make a prickly coat for Porcupine?

Janet is the mother of four and the grandmother of four. She and her husband live in South Milwaukee, WI. When Janet isn’t writing, she enjoys gardening, visiting new places—especially living history museums and nature centers—reading, watching movies, and spending time with her family.

Janet will be visiting the Lori Calabrese Writes blog most of the day, so if you have any questions, please visit and enjoy finding out how Janet is amazed at the wonders of writing about nature…

The Wonders of Writing about Nature - by Janet Halfmann

I am constantly amazed at the wonders to be found in nature. Each time I research a new animal or plant, the details of its makeup and behavior leave me in awe.

My love of nature began as a child, growing up on a crop and small dairy farm in mid-Michigan. I loved listening to the bobwhite’s whistle. I loved watching the wrens build their nest in the little birdhouse atop the clothesline post. I loved going to the woods in the spring to pick violets and bluebells. I loved riding to the back forty in the pickup with my dad to see how much the soybeans had grown. I loved sitting on the back porch at night with my family listening to the crickets chirp. And I especially loved the farm cats and kittens, who loved me as much as I loved them.

Thirteen years ago when I decided to write for children full-time, I wanted to write about animals and nature. But many of the writers’ books I read warned against it if one wanted to get published. I’m not sure of the reasons now after all these years. But in any case, most of the notes I tossed into my idea file ended up being about nature and animals. So I started writing about what I loved, and now I’m celebrating the release of my twenty-fifth nature book!

When I research an animal I especially want to find out the little details about its life: how does a baby bat practice to learn to fly, how does an alligator build its nest, how do geese teach their goslings to survive. It’s the little details that make the story come alive for me and the reader.

For example, in my book Alligator at Saw Grass Road (Smithsonian Backyard), a favorite part for readers is when a red-bellied turtle lays her eggs in the alligator’s nest, then leaves knowing the eggs will be protected. In Pelican’s Catch (Smithsonian Oceanic), kids are intrigued by the seagull who keeps trying to steal the seabird’s fish. These little-known details make the story fun for me to write and add drama for the reader.

I especially like writing about nature like I’m telling a story, either nonfiction or fiction. I have written many books for Soundprints, which publishes nature stories in association with the Smithsonian Institution. The stars of these stories have ranged from polar bears to hermit crabs to ants. When I was working on my upcoming book, Garter Snake on Willow Creek Lane, my 5-year-old grandson became so interested in my research books that he created a snake book for me! What inspiration!

My first published fiction book, Little Skink’s Tail (Arbordale Publishing, 2007), is about a little lizard. She loses her tail to a hungry crow and then daydreams of wearing the tails of other forest animals. I got the idea for this story while writing a nonfiction book about all kinds of lizards. I found it fascinating that most lizards can snap off their tails to escape danger. I was especially captivated by young skinks, who have brightly colored tails. Little Skink turned out to be the perfect character not only for starring in a fun story, but for teaching readers about all kinds of tails and for encouraging children to be comfortable with themselves as they are (this last message evolved all on its own in the telling of the story, for which I am very grateful).

And now, my second published fiction book, Fur and Feathers, is also about animals—and a caring young girl named Sophia. When I read on Arbordale Publishing’s website that they were looking for a book on animal “wraps,” I immediately put on my brainstorming cap. Out of it popped a young girl who couldn’t sleep because of a storm, a dream storm that blew off all of the animals’ coverings, and an all-night sewing session in which Sophia fashions new coats for the animals. A favorite part of writing Fur and Feathers was helping Sophia find special touches to add to the new coats. I included all the animal groups in the story, so that besides being fun, the book would be as educational as possible. Fur and Feathers is also a story about friendship and caring.

I don’t think that I could stop writing about animals and nature even if I tried. There’s always something new I find on a walk, or in my backyard, or in something I read or hear that begs to be tossed into my idea file. And someday, that idea may very well turn into a book.

To learn more about Janet Halfmann, please visit her website.
- Lori Calabrese

Outnumbered 3-1 - August 2010

It's so important for children to have books. Books help them build their imagination and learn all at the same time. I am so excited to share a book with you that was written by someone almost in my backyard. Fur and Feathers is written by Janet Halfmann and she just happens to live about 5 to 10 minutes away from me!

"When Sophia dreams that howling winds whisk the fur and feathers right off her animal friends, she shares some of her clothes with them. But her clothing doesn’t work well for the animals. Seeing their disappointment, she offers to sew each one the “right” coat. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones. And how will Sophia make a prickly coat for Porcupine? The award-winning team of Halfmann and Klein (Little Skink’s Tail) reunite to bring animal coverings (and classification) to life in an imaginative way."
- Melissa Willms

Brimful Curiosities - August 2010

A featherless duck? A bear without fur? In Fur and Feathers, a little girl named Sophia falls asleep during a storm while her mother reads a counting book about animals. The wind and animals enter her dreams, the animals get caught in a swirling storm and the wind blows their skin coverings right off. The duck loses all its feathers, the polar bear loses its fluffy white fur and the snake's scales fly away. Sophia must come to their rescue. At first she tries to dress them in her own clothing, but the animals agree that it isn't a practical solution (a diving suit looks pretty silly on a portly pig and the porcupine closely resembles Paddington from the classic books). Luckily for the animals, Sophia comes up with a better idea. She grabs her grandmother's sewing basket and, one by one, she proceeds to craft a new coat for each animal, adding her own special touches as she finishes each coat. The author leaves the end of the book to the reader's own imagination - was it truly a dream?

Sophia, the main character, uses all her creative energies coming up with appropriate coats for the animals. She sticks pins and needles on the porcupine, uses a little green slime for the frog, and covers a fish in sequins. Illustrator Laurie Allen Klein certainly must have enjoyed creating all the animal artwork in this fun book. One page spread shows 26 animals without coverings standing in line, starkly contrasting a colorful ladybug with brilliant and starry new wing covers. (There's a nice little puzzle on that page, by the way. Bet you can't figure out the names of all the animals pictured from from A to Z...we surely can't!) We laughed at the silly clothing on the animals, enjoyed the illustrators hints about what animal would get a new coat next, and loved the proud and adorable expressions on the animals' faces as they regain their new, improved coverings.

Fur and Feathers releases today (August 10, 2010) and certainly sparks the imagination. My kids thought about all the household items they could use on different animals if they needed a new coat and we had fun discussing the differences between the animal coverings. In fact, like other Arbordale books, this fictional story contains an impressive educational component. The "For Creative Minds" section in the back of the book covers basic scientific classification. Young children (preschoolers through early elementary) can learn how to categorize animals in classes by observing their different skin coverings (Mammals, Fish, Reptiles, Birds, Insects, Gastropods, Amphibians). Teachers, parents, and homeschoolers can find free online educational resources to accompany this book on the publisher's website.
- Janelle Davis

Environmental Education Association of Illinois, Immediate-Past President - August 2010

Arbordale has once again published a good science-friendly fiction piece titled “Fur and Feathers” by Janet Halfmann as author.  Janet was the author of the well-loved “Little Skinks Tail” that many of you use in your programming.  True to form, Janet again uses children’s literature as a platform for us to address scientific classification methods to our groups.    This book would be a great accompanying piece to many of our preschool programs which deal with general external covering classifications (feathers for birds, scales for Herps., fur for mammals).  While reading the book, I can see many environmental education groups replicating this little girl’s journey and having students try to “create body coverings” based on adaptive needs, etc.  Much like an adaptation artistry activity but for a preschool level with true species.  Great find!  See her virtual book tour information below.
- Sarah Livesay

The Chronicle of the Earth - August 2010

I always love release time at Arbordale Publishing! Five new great books came out for fall 2010. I passed these around to several local homeschooling families and got some great feedback from all the mothers who previewed them.

Fur and Feathers is a short imaginative story that helps children start understanding the process of animal class identification. Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, who also illustrated one of my all time favorite Sylan Dell books Where Should Turtle Be, this book has soft and appealing illustrations. This story was short and engaging enough for my three year old, but would still be good to use with my six year old using the back "For Creative Minds" section for expansion.
- Alia Heise

She's Too Fond of Books - August 2010

The award-winning team of Janet Halfmann and Laurie Allen Klein (Little Skink’s Tail) return with another book that teaches young readers (and those who sit for ‘read alouds’) about the unique qualities of animals.  Little Skink’s Tail investigated the way a specific tail is best-suited to each animal.  In Fur and Feathers, the reader learns why various animals have the specific type of “clothing” (covering).

The scene is set when Sophia and her mother read an animal counting book before bed one night.  As the wind storm howls outside her bedroom window, the subjects of the book come to life in Sophia’s dream:

But in her dreams, the animals whirl with the whipping wind.  Faster and faster they spin, till the wind blows them right out of their coats.  Fur, shells, feathers and scales fly everywhere.  The animals shiver in their bare skin.

Sophia wants to help the animals keep warm, so she offers to share her own clothing from her closet.  This first attempt is met with thanks from the animals, but they all agree that Sophia’s clothes are not the best ‘fit’ for their special animal needs.

Grabbing her grandmother’s sewing box, Sophia offers to create the right coat for each animal.  One by one the animals tell her of their needs:  Polar Bear requires “a coat of thick white fur to keep me warm and to help me hid in the ice and snow;”  fleecy fabric does the trick.  Porcupine needs prickly quills “to protect myself;” Sophia fashions a new coat from brown fabric “bristling with pins and needles.” 

As the other animals come forward and state their needs, Sophia creates a facsimile of their true covering, using the feathers, sequins,and shells from her grandmother’s basket.  To each coat, she adds a special touch – a heart behind Polar Bear’s ear, a change of color to the band around Duck’s neck.

Fur and Feathers touches on just enough animals to spark a discussion about other creatures and the way their ‘coats’ are specialized for warmth, movement, protection, or camouflage.  From the tiny Snail to the big Polar Bear, Sophia (and the reader) learn a bit about adaptation, and feed curiosity about other aspects of animal behavior.

Like all Arbordale books we’ve read, the “For Creative Minds” section at the back of the book offers opportunities for deeper investigation.  In Fur and Feathers, these pages delve into scientific classification, an explanation of the system, questions to ask when classifying, and a half dozen bullet points about seven classes and types of skin coverings.  These pages are a solid reference when my two younger children were trying to stump each other classifying various animals (I had to referee a few times, but no one got hurt!).

These resources and a Teaching Activity Guide are also available online; this is such a wonderful resource for readers of the book – for classroom teachers, homeschoolers, and families – I printed out several age-appropriate activities to bring in the car on long drives over the past few weeks.  They kept my youngest busy, as he sorted them out and we talked our way to our destination.

Laurie Allen Klein’s illustrations are beautifully rendered in colored pencil and acrylic paint.  The dream animals are given human expressions and activities (reading a book, helping with the sewing, etc.).  My kids had fun finding the special touch Sophia puts on each new coat, and were pleasantly surprised to find that one carries over from dream to reality, when, at the zoo the next day, Sophia and Grandma spot a polar bear with a red heart behind his ear.

Highly recommended as a read aloud for the younger set, and a read aloud science-based picture book through mid-elementary.  The For Creative Minds section and Teaching Activity Guide encourage Fur and Feathers to be extended beyond that age.

Reading to Know - August 2010

Arbordale Publishing just released their new Fall 2010 titles and I was excited to see them! I love Arbordale (having mentioned them a time or two) but I was most excited to see the newest title by Janet Halfmann. You might recall that she wrote Little Blank Ant on Park Street (click on the title to read my review) which we have read just a time or two this summer. She also wrote Little Skink's Tail which is another of our favorites. I was feeling pretty confident that we'd like this new title and I was right!

In this new story, we meet Sophia, a little girl who is being read a bedtime story by her mother. This story results in her having a dream about all of the animals losing their fur and feathers. Sophia worries for the animals and they take turns coming to her to be redressed in their original outer coverings.

Cute story which points out the uniqueness of the animals in their various skin coverings. As per usual with Arbordale titles, in the back of the book there is additional information about the animals. In this case, the book details a bit more what the differences are between mammals, adult insects, reptiles, birds, fish, snails and amphibians.

These books certainly testify to the quality of books that Arbordale publishes to open up the world of animals to children. I'm going to keep harping on them, but if you haven't yet checked out their website, you really must! There are plenty of activities available for download and use by parents and teachers on their website. They are a cracker jack publishing company and I hope you'll check them out
- Carrie Brownwell

Katie's Literature Lounge - August 2010

A big wind storm blows the fur, feathers, scales, and shells (among some skin coverings) off all the different zoo animals in Sophie's dream after a wind storm one night. Determined to help them stay warm, Sophie offers them the clothing out of her closet... however, it's less than conducive for their needs! Looking around the house, Sophie discovers Grandma's sewing basket, full of materials that will help her give the animals a new coat. By having the animals line up, Sophie (and readers) learn all about the kinds of skin coverings the different animals require to survive in their environments and she sets about, sewing the new coats, adding a personal touch to each!

This is an incredible story! I LOVE it and know that it's found a home in my "Animals, Animals, Everywhere" theme! There's much to be learned and the creative Sophie displays towards creating the animals new coats is incredible! I think children will love the adventure found within the pages of this story and I'm very much looking forward to sharing it with my preschoolers!

Learning/Reading Activity:
Arbordale Publishing has provided a complimentary copy of the teaching activities packet to use in collaboration with Fur and Feathers, that can be downloaded here. There are many great activities among the 57 pages! My favorite activity is found on pages 34-40, in which children are asked to create a new coat for the animals, based on their characteristics and needs, after doing a bit of research about the animal. Of course, there are like 26 different animals, one for each letter of the alphabet - so you could just have your child(ren) select one animal to simplify things! Encourage your child(ren) to be creative by allowing them free reign of the craft supplies!
- Katie Harvey

Cafe of Dreams - August 2010

A delightful story that will captivate the young and the young-at-heart, Fur and Feathers is a must-have for all homes with young children.  Geared toward the 4-8 age range, Fur and Feathers tells the story of a young girl, Sophia, who falls into dreamland after reading an animal counting book with her mother.  The bedtime story comes to life, within Sophia's dream, as the animals come to visit Sophia in a whirling wind that leaves the poor animals without covering, only bare skin.  Imagine a polar bear without fur, a duck without feathers, a snake without scales and a porcupine without quills.  Feeling bare and distraught, the animals ask for Sophia's help in covering them, for their comfort and protection.  It is with that, that Sophia digs out her grandmother's huge sewing basket and hand-in-hand with a wonderful imagination, Sophia goes about creating proper coats for each of the animals - adding her own personal touch to each as well.

One of my favorite parts of the book was when Sophia created the snake's scales from light and dark pinecones, overlapping the different colors to create a pattern and adding bright yellow bows for stripes.  This makes the snake very proud as he slithers away with a smile upon his face.  Pride is a reoccurring theme throughout the book as well as creativity and helpfulness, instilling these important values in children.  I also loved how the story ends, in a way coming full circle and hinting at a delightful secret.

Janet Halfmann is one of my favorite children book authors.  Her stories are entertaining, appealing and educational.  Illustrator Laurie Allen Klein brings the words and story to life with her incredibly beautiful, colorful and lifelike illustrations.  Combine the story and illustrations with the "For Creative Minds" learning section brought by Arbordale Publishing Company and you have an unforgettable and "sneaky" fun way to education for your children.  After living within Sophia's dream, readers can learn the scientific classification of living things including mammals, fish, reptiles, gastropods, birds , amphibians and insects.  This includes commonplace ways to identify each animal such as their body/skin coverings, internal/external skeletal structure, as well as ways in which they breath and reproduce.  The learning doesn't stop after closing the cover on this delightful story.  Arbordale Publishing provides a website with free online resources, unique to each book.  Activities include interactive quizzes, teaching activities from language arts, science, math, research and geography, character and citizenship.  As a bit of extra added fun, stuffed animals are also available, which enable your child to bring the stories to life on their very own and use their imaginations to create stories of their own.

Fur and Feathers is a wonderful story of creativity, learning and the magic of animals.  Any child who loves animals will thrill in this book, as well as adults.  I can't recommend Fur and Feathers enough and I greatly look forward to future works by Janet Halfmann!
*overall rating 5/5
- April Pohren

In the Pages - 2010

Another box I never tire of is Arbordale's latest releases. I LOVE their focus on Science and Math and the supporting materials they offer. Their website is just loaded with great resources for teachers and parents - really, they are NOT to be missed!

Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann. What can I say - I do enjoy Janet Halfmann!! She never ceases to write books that kids just enjoy. This is a sweet story of Sophia - a little girl who wants to make clothes for each of her animal friends - but seeing that they won't work - she then decides to make just the right coat for each of them. Each animal proceeds to tell her what they need in a coat and thus begins the wonderful teaching of animal coverings and even animal classification brought to life in a fun, readable way! (Ages 4-9)
- Becky Bilby