Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007. ISBN 9780399239892
Feathers is an easy-to-read, fast paced, rather simple book about a girl named Frannie whose “big change” is a new boy in her class. Frannie goes to an all African American school [due to location as she points out “It’s the nineteen seventies…There’s no more segregation, remember?” (11)], has a brother who is deaf, and a white boy who says he isn’t white has just transferred into her class. The Jesus Boy, as he is called throughout the book, is a source of confusion and reflection for the whole class.
This is the simple foundation that this short book is based on. Frannie is your likeable, honest narrator. She also acts as a sounding board for everyone else. That being said, she isn’t an empty shell. She has strong feelings about her family that includes being overprotective of her older brother. While she is ambivalent about religion, she lets her best friend bounce her own ideas off of her.
In the end, Frannie, her best friend, The Jesus Boy, and the class bully are all shown to simply be people.
There is a strong sense of community in the story. The class usually acts, or doesn’t act, together. Frannie’s family and her best friend go to church, though Frannie herself has no interest. Even the basketball game at the community center when Frannie sees The Jesus Boy in the hall shows a busy place where everyone looks at The Jesus Boy a little sideways as though not sure what to make of him. The Jesus Boy himself is a rather passive character for the most part. While things happen around and to him, very few things actually spark a reaction. Instead, simply by being there he causes others to react.
While this story is an easy read and could be read even by elementary school children, it would likely do better in sixth or seventh grade. This story would be interested paired with something like Walter Dean Myers’s Monster. Both clearly have an “outsider” but the reaction to and nature of the “outsider” are very different. Another interesting companion to this book could be The Diary of Anne Frank or The Book Thief, for the same reason.
Newbery Medal-2008 (Honor book)
Notable Children’s Books-2008 ALSC American Library Association
Children’s Literature—“ Although Frannie is in many ways a very ordinary girl, with whom girl readers will easily connect, her life circumstances propel her to greater introspection and growth. She is a wonderful role model for coming of age in a thoughtful way, and the book offers to teach us all about holding on to hope.”
Kirkus—“ Woodson captures perfectly the questions and yearnings of a girl perched on the edge of adolescence, a girl who readers will take into their hearts and be glad to call their friend.”
Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. 2007. (Vol. 75, No. 3). Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=20&isbn=9780399239892
McMillen, Paula. Children’s Literature. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=20&isbn=9780399239892