The Feather by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (9781760124212)
A giant white glowing feather floats down into a dystopian world where the sky is always gray. Two children find it and take it to the village, amazed by how light it is to carry. The children know it doesn’t belong inside. The adults in the village though want to contain its beauty, but before they can, the feather changes. It becomes dirty and dull, absorbing the weight of their ideas and thoughts. The villagers disperse, angry at being tricked. The children carry the heavy feather back with them, caring for it through the night until in the morning it is brilliant once more. The children decide to set it free, and as the feather floats skyward, it leaves behind a promise of blue skies.
Wild’s story is deep and wondrous, rather like the feather itself. The gigantic nature of the feather, its ability to remind people of blue skies and fresh breezes, makes it magical. And yet, it can be squandered by needing to own that magic, to contain it. The dulling of the feather is a profound answer to that selfishness. The children’s own willingness to care for the feather cleanses it once more. It’s a lovely analogy about selflessness, sharing joy, and finding hope together.
Blackwood’s illustrations are glorious. She creates a feather that is both light and weighty, radiant and white. It lights the world around it, then absorbs the darkness into itself in a way that is heartbreaking. Her vision of the gray world is haunting and aching for a brightening, a possibility.
A picture book that will spark discussion about hope, change and making a difference in your world as a child. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Spots in a Box by Helen Ward
A guinea fowl is worried about his lack of plumage design, so he sends off for spots in the mail. They come wrapped in brown paper and string, something that always makes a package more intriguing. But inside, they are not the spots he expected. They are too big for his taste. Luckily though, more spots arrive. Some are too small, others too sparkly. Still others glow in the dark! But eventually after looking at lots of different options, our protagonist picks out some spots that are just perfect and they may not be what you may have expected. Yet they are just right for him.
Ward has written a winning book. Written in rhyme that is never forced but feel very natural, this book is a pleasure to share aloud. The real focus here are the illustrations and those are what make the book so interesting. A large part of the joy here is the silliness of a bird shopping for spots. That is made all the more fascinating because our guinea fowl hero is drawn very lifelike and reacts like a bird would. It is a delightful mix of reality and the rather farcical humor of shopping for dots and spots.
This book is about design and personal style without it being about pink things and tulle. So it’s a very refreshing addition to book shelves where children who have different tastes will find themselves imagining what spots would suit them in life. The design of the book itself is lovely with nods to leopard print and playful die cut pieces at times.
Very young readers will find lots to love here with pages that sparkly and some that have raised spots. It’s also a great book to inspire drawing or discussions of style. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Feathers do so many things for birds and this book looks at all of the ways that feathers help birds in the wild. Sixteen different birds are featured in the book, each one with a specific focus on what they use their feathers for. There is the wood duck who lines her nest with feathers to keep her eggs cushioned. The red-tailed hawk uses their feather to protect them from the sun as they fly for hours. Other birds use their feathers in unique ways like the rosy-faced lovebird who tucks nesting materials into her rump feathers to take back to where she is building her nest. Towards the end of the book, the author looks at all of the different sorts of feathers that birds have.
Stewart tells readers in her Author Note that this was a book she had worked on for some time as an idea. Her use of metaphors to show what feathers do is an inspired choice, making the book all the more accessible for children. She provides details with specific birds, explaining how they use their feathers and also providing little pieces of information on how the birds live and their habitats.
The watercolor illustrations are done to look like a naturalists field journal with scraps of paper, loose feathers, notes, cup rings, and scraps of fabric. All of the images of the birds have their locations as well, adding to the field journal feel. The result is richly visual book that may inspire readers to start their own bird journals.
This is a book that will instruct and amaze, just the right sort of science book for young readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.