Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

I recommend this book for: 5th grade and up

Frannie is a 6th grader who lives on the black side of the highway in 1971. The title comes from Emily Dickinson's poem: "Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul," which Frannie studies in school and ponders throughout the story. Her family situation has the potential to be rocky - a mother who is pregnant and at risk to lose the baby, a father who is away from home a lot because he drives a tractor trailer, and an older brother who is deaf and struggles with the prejudices of the hearing people around him - but the family is loving and happy together.

One day a long-haired white boy joins Frannie's class and announces that his name is Jesus. He is an instant target for persecution, but Frannie's friend Samantha seems to believe that the Jesus Boy is the real deal - she reasons that their neighborhood has as much need of God's son as anyone else.

This was a great novel that I devoured in two sittings - it explores the complicated issues of race, family, religion, belief, friendships in middle school - and makes it interesting. The time period also hooked me, since I haven't read much that takes place in the 70s. Frannie is a great narrator, and her story is one well worth reading.

What the experts said.

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