Author: Jaqueline Woodson
Genre: Children's Novel
Rating: 5 Stars
Age Group: Upper Elementary/Middle School
While reading Feathers, I admit that I did not originally find the text to be controversial. It wasn't until after I had finished the novel and was reflecting on what I had just read, that it really sunk in all of the loaded information and controversial issues touched on in this text. The story is about a girl named Frannie who is black, and lives on the "black side" of the highway. A boy from the "white side" transfers to her school, which causes turbulence among the children who were brought up in their segregated community in the 70's. The boy, nicknamed "Jesus Boy" due to his "Jesus-like" appearance, befriends Frannie who sticks up for him throughout his troubled start at Price elementary school. Other events are going on throughout the story, such as the pregnancy of Frannie's mom, and the troubles related to Frannie's brother's deafness.
I loved this story because of the way it was able to make me really think. Certain lines were so deep and poetic, I found myself stopping to reflect on Frannie's words. Her mind was so wise and mature for a sixth grader, and I liked how I as the reader was able to travel with her as she made discoveries regarding hope, spirituality, and life itself.
I think that the reason I didn't originally find the text to be controversial, was because I grew up in a Christian background. For this reason, I didn't find it odd that the characters were discussing Jesus, however, I know that in a classroom where people have varying religious backgrounds and beliefs, this could be a controversial topic. It is an issue that would have to be addressed, because the topic of Jesus is such a prominent theme throughout the story. There would be no getting around it in a classroom while analyzing the text. Some of the Jesus references were more obvious, while others were hidden in metaphors. For example, Samantha, Frannie's friend, talks of the similarities between Frannie's two chicken pox scars in the middle of her palms, and nail holes (a reference to Jesus being nailed to the cross). For reasons such as this, I feel that this text would be best for higher-level readers in upper grades, so that they could really pick apart the text and be able to appreciate Woodson's controversial yet intelligent way of writing.
I think that this novel is a wonderful and poetic book that is relatable to any growing and maturing child. Although it is set in the seventies and segregation is still a major part of life, the internal battles that Frannie deals with such as handling bullies and friendships are life experiences that students could connect with. At the same time, her experiences that are not as relatable, such as living in a world of segregation, are equally important to the text, as they could teach the reader about historical issues which can then be connected to life in our world today. Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading this book, and would absolutely love implementing it in my future classroom- however, I can forsee the controversy and issues that could likely arise.