Sunday, September 11, 2011

Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson

Title:  Feathers
Author:  Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher:  Putnam Juvenile
Year:  2007
Pages:  116
Genre:  Realistic Fiction, Multicultural
Themes:  Acceptance, Disabilities, Multiculturalism
Age Level:  6th Grade and Up

Summary: (from Goodreads)
"Hope is the thing with feathers," starts the poem Frannie is reading in school. Frannie hasn't thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more holy.”There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he’is not white. Who is he?
During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light:—her brother Sean's deafness, her mother's fear, the class bully's anger, her best friend's faith and her own desire for the thing with feathers.”

Woodson's books are like small jewels, each one getting right to the heart of the matter in lyric prose that is sparingly beautiful.  In Feathers, Frannie is living in the early 1970s, a time when we as a culture were still struggling to come to terms with the many changes brought about by the turbulent 60s.  Woodson does a wonderful job portraying that particular time, especially the racial divisions that persisted despite the civil rights movement's many battles for equality.  The arrival of Jesus Boy throws everyone's beliefs about racial identity and where they "belong" into question.  His peacefulness and obvious unconcern for how he is perceived by others makes no sense to a group of children who are constantly monitoring themselves and each other for "coolness".   Her brother Sean's deafness, and the way that he carries himself with confidence despite it, plays a large part in her realizations about courage and hope.  Frannie is also deeply affected by the death of her sister as a baby, and her mother's subsequent miscarriages and depression.  When her mother becomes pregnant again, Frannnie is upset that she will no longer be the "baby" of the family, and worries about whether this baby will make it.  Through the course of the book she goes from a self-centered child only concerned about losing her mother's attention, to a compassionate young woman full of hope for her mother to be healthy and happy with her new sibling.  This short book is ripe with topics for discussion, and could be used as part of a unit on family or multiculturalism very easily.

Teacher Resources:
The Best Children's
Penguin Reading Group Guide

1 comment:

  1. I love your description of Woodson's writing! I totally agree. She's one of my favorite authors. My sophomores always enjoyed reading Miracle's Boys! Thanks for the review!