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 Sylvan Dell. 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. (If you'd like a glimpse, check out this preview.) 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. Sylvan Dell 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!)
If you'd like to know more about Fur and Feathers, check out the trailer below.