Book Review: ‘Fur and Feathers Together: A Tale from the Highland Woods’

By TINKY WEISBLAT

For the Recorder

Published: 10-06-2023 9:45 AM

Children’s books often work best when they incorporate educational messages into fun, engaging stories. This combination of fun and learning forms the center of “Fur & Feather’s Together: A Tale of the Highland Woods” by Patricia Williams, with illustrations by Tom Swetland.

The two are a couple and live in Greenfield. Williams is an herbalist and a former union representative; Swetland is a retired bookstore owner who ran Federal Street Books for 14 years. He mounts annual shows of art at the LAVA Center in Greenfield.

The book was apparently inspired by long walks through Greenfield’s Highland Woods. “Fur & Feathers Together” is aimed at young people between the ages of eight and 12. Williams and Swetland clearly share a love of the outdoors and the environment, as well as a passion for collective action. As the book’s title suggests, their story is one in which animals and birds work cooperatively.

The tale opens as many hatchlings in the owl nursery in the woods are being lost because their eggs are fragile. The shells have begun to crack before the babies can be born.

As the owls and their woodland friends organize themselves to come up with a solution, they discover that they are not alone in this problem. The hens from a local farm family and their human owners are also increasingly concerned about the issue of weak shells.

It takes all the forest animals and birds plus a few domesticated creatures (a couple of dogs and a delightfully conceited macaw) to diagnose the problem. They discover that industrial waste in the local water supply is to blame.

Even more of a challenge, but one the creatures embrace, is figuring out a way to spur humans to act on a remedy for the problem.

“Fur & Feathers Together” could have used an editor; it has a couple of grammatical errors and some awkward phrases. It is charming nevertheless. Its message of nurturing nature with community action will appeal to adults and children, as will its humor. In words and colorful pictures, Patricia Williams and Tom Swetland create birds and animals with distinct and entertaining personalities.

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“Fur & Feathers Together” is available at the Imaginary Bookshop, at Federal Street Books, at the World Eye Bookshop, and online, as well as at the new Greenfield Public Library.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer known as the Diva of Deliciousness. Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.