Written by Jacqueline Woodson
Feathers, a realistic fiction novel written by Jacqueline Woodson that takes place in the 1970s, is about children who are trying to find their place in the world. The protagonist of the story, Frannie, is eleven years old and much like her friends is not sure how to take it when a white, “Jesus-Boy” shows up in her classroom—one that is all black. Sean, Frannie’s older brother, deals with being deaf in a community of people who can all hear. Another young boy from Frannie’s class, Trevor, is biracial, but has difficulty dealing with this and in turn, becomes a bully. The Jesus Boy, although he looks white, does not identify with being so.
Woodson develops a plot that is engaging and realistic to today’s youth. People are constantly judging each other because of their looks, skin color, disabilities, etc.. The plot is full of different situations and problems that the children face. For example, Frannie’s brother Sean deals with the reaction of young girls when they find out he cannot hear. For some reason, they are no longer interested once they find out he is deaf.
Woodson never names the setting, but according to her website, she was envisioning the story to take place between the Queens and Brooklyn border. The biggest thing that makes this evident is that Frannie and the other children are always talking about the other side of the bridge. Since they are living on Long Island, they would have to cross a bridge to get into New York City and another one to get beyond New York City. Interestingly though, Frannie would not have had to travel beyond the bridge in order to see how the other side lived. From what I know about Long Island, Frannie could have also just traveled further east and would have also been in a different world. Woodson writes After Tupac & D. Foster in a similar setting to Feathers.
Although this story won the Newbery Honor Award, I did not feel as much of an emotional connection to the story and found it difficult to get through at times. In comparison to some of the other Newbery Award winning books, I feel like others are overall much stronger. For example, I feel there is a world of difference between the story, One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia and Feathers. Regardless though, I found it intriguing to read about a boy who was the only white kid in the class—this is certainly different from what I am used to—although, the story did remind me of when I taught in a predominately African American school.