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Feathers [Hardcover]

Jacqueline Woodson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 2007 9 - 12 years4 - 70710 (What's this?)
View our feature on Jacqueline Woodson's Feathers.

“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’s 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.”

Jacqueline Woodson once again takes readers on a journey into a young girl’s heart and reveals the pain and the joy of learning to look beneath the surface.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Looking forward" is the message that runs through Woodson's (The House You Pass on the Way) novel. Narrator Frannie is fascinated with Emily Dickinson's poem, "Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul," and grapples with its meaning, especially after a white student joins Frannie's all-black sixth-grade classroom. Trevor, the classroom bully, promptly nicknames him "Jesus Boy," because he is "pale and his hair [is] long." Frannie's best friend, Samantha, a preacher's daughter, starts to believe that the new boy truly could be Jesus ("If there was a world for Jesus to need to walk back into, wouldn't this one be it?"). The Jesus Boy's sense of calm and its effect on her classmates make Frannie wonder if there is some truth to Samantha'a musings, but a climactic faceoff between him and Trevor bring the newcomer's human flaws to light. Frannie's keen perceptions allow readers to observe a ripple of changes. Because she has experienced so much sadness in her life (her brother's deafness, her mother's miscarriages) the heroine is able to see beyond it all—to look forward to a time when the pain subsides and life continues. Set in 1971, Woodson's novel skillfully weaves in the music and events surrounding the rising opposition to the Vietnam War, giving this gentle, timeless story depth. She raises important questions about God, racial segregation and issues surrounding the hearing-impaired with a light and thoughtful touch. Ages 8-up.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4–7—"Stepped through that door white and softly as the snow," notes sixth-grader Frannie, on the arrival of a pale, long-haired boy to her predominantly black middle school on a winter day in 1971. He is dubbed the Jesus Boy by the class rowdy, and the name seems to suit the newcomer's appearance and calm demeanor. Frannie is confused, not only by declarations that he's NOT white, but that her friend Samantha, daughter of a conservative Baptist minister, also seems to believe that he is Jesus. In light of this and other surprises in her life, Frannie questions her own faith and, most of all, the meaning of the Emily Dickinson poem that she is studying in class, "Hope is a thing with feathers/that perches in the soul/…." How does she maintain hope when her newly pregnant mother has lost three babies already? She also worries about her deaf older brother, Sean, who longs to be accepted in the hearing world. She sees the anger in the bully intensify as he targets Jesus Boy. With her usual talent for creating characters who confront, reflect, and grow into their own persons, Woodson creates in Frannie a strong protagonist who thinks for herself and recognizes the value and meaning of family. The story ends with hope and thoughtfulness while speaking to those adolescents who struggle with race, faith, and prejudice. They will appreciate its wisdom and positive connections.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0710 (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 118 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399239898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399239892
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #603,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feathers and Hope June 1, 2007
In January of 1971, eleven-year-old Frannie lives contentedly with her parents and deaf older brother, Sean, in an apartment on the "wrong" side of the highway. "There weren't white people on this side of the highway.

You didn't notice until one appeared. And then you saw all the brown and light brown everywhere." Suddenly, a tall, skinny white boy with long hair appears in Frannie's sixth-grade class. His classmates decide that he looks like the pictures of Jesus and start calling him the "Jesus Boy." Frannie's best friend Samantha, whose father is a "fire-and brimstone" preacher according to Frannie's mother, seems especially

taken with the "Jesus Boy, " and begins to fantasize that he might be Jesus returned to earth. While the "Jesus Boy" must stand up to enormous bullying from his male classmates, which Frannie deplores, she

becomes quite interested in him and is mystified that he knows how to "sign," which is how she communicates with her beloved brother.

In this excellent, slice-of life story, the author explores, through Frannie's eyes, many facets of growing up.The likable Frannie learns to deal with religious ideas, racism, the meaning of friendship, familial love, and plain old - but never simple - milk of human kindness.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooray for good kids! June 16, 2007
Feathers--fine strands intricately connected to make something soft and beautiful, shimmering and uplifting. The musical language and the deliciously real detail would be enough, but the soul of this story is Frannie. She's not smart or pretty or graceful. She's not particularly poetic. She's certainly not religious. But she's good. She looks past what's peculiar and prickly to find those basic human connections that help her to do the right thing. Thanks, Jacqueline Woodson, for introducing us to Frannie and that Jesus Boy. In them we can all find hope. Readers who like Feathers might also like Danger, Long Division, in which another good kid, age 11, develops new perspectives on mean kids, friendship and family.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful story August 11, 2008
By Kelly H
I finished this yesterday morning--about 36 hours ago--and I've been thinking about it off and on since then. That's rare for me. Usually, I finish one book, then move right on to the next. But this beautiful novel stuck with me.

Frannie is a girl who's lost hope--she lives on the poor side of the highway, she's seen her mama suffer through miscarriages and now she's pregnant again, and she sees the way girls treat her brother when they find out he's deaf. Frannie's teacher reads an Emily Dickinson poem that starts "Hope is the thing with feathers..." to her class, which gets Frannie thinking about hope. Then a boy who looks like Jesus shows up as the new kid at school, and Frannie is forced to grapple with her own understanding of hope, faith, and religion. One of my favorite aspects of the story is how Frannie explores the idea of spirituality versus religion.

This would be a great book to read with your child because of all the interesting conversations you could have about the characters and what they go through.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVED Feathers! May 23, 2011
I read this book prior to my 10 year old daughter reading it and I LOVED it. I actually read it 3 times in 2 days then spent the next two weeks reading it to my daughter at bedtime. That was 4 years ago and we still talk about it regularly.

There were so many great life lessons in this book. I especially loved it when her grandmother told Frannie, "you be the one..." We've adopted that mentality in our family and I always encourage my three children to, "be the one" that steps up and steps in when someone needs it.

My other favorite part is when her dad is talking to Frannie about the pregnancy and that he'd rather have a few months of happy than none at all. Wow - that part really put some things in perspective for me.

This book goes down as one of my top 3 books of all time - the others are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Secret Garden.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We loved the book! February 5, 2009
My 4th grade class was completely riveted each day that I read this novel to them. I decided to use it as the Beginning of the Year Read Aloud and I am so happy that I did. It was inspiring and my students could totally relate to the characters. I personally think it is one of my favorite children's novels and it's very heartwarming to see that it has more rave reviews than negative reviews!! I think it's all about who reads it, how it's read, and what you interpret. Jacqueline Woodson is by far not writing on a one dimensional level. We have to teach our students to read beneath the surface and really dissect literature to get at the real meanings and goals the writer has. This was quite enjoyable for all of us!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A coming-of-age novel about faith, hope, and grief June 20, 2011
When her sixth-grade class reads Emily Dickenson's poem, "Hope Is a Thing with Feathers," Frannie isn't sure she understands the metaphor. After all, living on the wrong side of the tracks, grieving for the babies her mother has miscarried, and coping with her brother's deafness all mean Frannie doesn't have a lot of room for hope in her life. She doesn't like to go to church and thinks her best friend is crazy for some of the cheerful things she believes. But now her mother is expecting again and Frannie has to come to grips with her fear--and the reality that sometimes things turn out okay after all.

Woodson's books sometimes force readers to bite off a bit more than they're ready to chew, but not this time. Feathers is a simple, beautiful story about looking for God in the unlikeliest of places--and learning the value of hope. It was a Newbery Honor Book in 2008.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Hope is all around us...
Eleven-year-old Frannie is struck by Emily Dickinson's poem the moment her teacher reads it to the class. Yes, Frannie agrees, hope is the thing with feathers. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joanna M
3.0 out of 5 stars Light as a Feather
Read for a Child & Adolescent Literature class. Feathers is a quick, easy read full of heart. A wonderful piece on looking past differences in people to find the floaty feelings in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Affirmcation
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving, poetic, and important read.
Moving, poetic, and important.
Published 6 months ago by sherilyn olsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Woodson winner.
Just a beautiful book.
Published 13 months ago by Carmella
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 13 months ago by Judy AScranton
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
What a beautiful book if I do say so myself. It had deep meaning to it although I wonder if her mom baby stays alive
Published 16 months ago by zoria
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful homage to hope
In a world of black and white this tender and personal journey of Frannie's to her appreciation of hope leads from the abstract to her real world.
Published 16 months ago by J. Henges
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and righteous
I wish more children's books taught such meaningful and important lessons. Delightful, deep characters that rate to today's adolescent turmoil and addresses questions of meaning,... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The story was wonderful and had a lot of morals and inspiration to ...
Book arrived as expected. The story was wonderful and had a lot of morals and inspiration to it.
Published 18 months ago by Nicole Bird
4.0 out of 5 stars fantastic
So, I love the central messages/themes in the book , but hated that it ended with a huge cliffhanger and I would have liked a bit more background. Sign me up for the sequel!!
Published 19 months ago by hamilton warren
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