Book Review: Feather

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Written by Cao Wenxuan

Illustrated by Roger Mello

Translated by Chloe Garcia-Roberts

40 pages

Published by Archipelago Books

Age range: 5 +

Publication date: 10th October 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

A philosophical picture book from one of China’s most celebrated children’s authors and 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award-winner Cao Wenxuan.

A feather is blown across the sky, meeting various birds along the way, and asking each one, “Do I belong to you?”.

Cao Wenxuan’s Feather tells the story of a single feather that is helplessly swept away on a journey of self discovery and belonging. Encountering a variety of birds, from a kingfisher to a magpie, the feather is hopeful of meeting the the bird it belongs to. Again and again, the feather is dismissed or ignored. Only when it calmly and contentedly accepts that perhaps it is simply a feather with no bird to call its own does fate offer a reunion… Feather‘s appeal to young children is derived from a plot that is at once compelling, meditative, and full of adventure, aided by the dynamic, colorful illustrations of Roger Mello.

A strong burst of wind came along and blew Feather up into the sky.

The feeling of fluttering high in the sky was delightful.

If I belonged to a bird, I could fly even higher! she thought.

How she longed for the sky! How she longed to soar!

The author described this book as reflecting the ultimate human journey – that for meaning in our own life – where did we come from? Where are we going? A feather searches for who she belongs to, facing adversity and rejection along the way, yet ultimately discovering that the place she belongs is closer to home than she imagined.

Later Feather asked a magpie, “Am I yours?”

She asked a swan, “Am I yours?”

The answer was always the same, “You are not.”

What I liked: Beautiful stylistic art, book translated from Chinese (I love greater diversity in books), philosophical message.

Even better if: I don’t think this will have much re-read value for the average child because there isn’t a meaty storyline to get stuck into.

How you could use it in your classroom: Could be used to discuss or introduce a discussion about identity and belonging. May be powerful when used as part of a narrative about how we define ourselves by who and where we came from and how our identity can be shaped independent of those influences too.

(Thank you to Netgalley and Archipelago Books for my review copy)

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