Review Blog

Aug 30 2017

Feathers by Phil Cummings

cover image

Ill. by Phil Lesnie. Scholastic, 2017. ISBN 9781760157357
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Feathers, Refugees, Connections, Developing countries. Four feathers fall from the sandpiper as it flies unimpeded to its new home across mountains, seas and deserts. Each feather is found by a child: three hoping for a better tomorrow, one realising just how lucky she is.
A boy sheltering in a village devastated by an earthquake puts the feather to his face, another plucks the feather from the air, tickling her brother's feet as they tramp in a line of refugees, a third watches the feather made into a boat by their mother, floating away in the floodwaters that have destroyed their house. Each feather represents hope for a better future, and the last one, picked up by Mia, a girl without any worries, is reminded by her father just how lucky she is.
In spare, emotive prose Cummings captures the theme of interconnectedness, of how we are all one world, a world which for some is devastated by war or flood or earthquake leaving them to live in heartbreak and need. The feathers of hope are dropped by a bird which does not heed borders, it flies to its next home, a place of warmth and safety, unhindered, a stark reminder of just how detained some are in finding a place of refuge and peace.
Lessie's pencil and water colour illustrations add another layer of connection, as his children, ragged and thin struggle against their hostile backgrounds, until we get to Mia, healthy and happy, playing at her home, laughing with her father. The contrast is arresting: the single happy child playing on a swing with her father in a bright carefree sun filled environment, set against the demolished village after the earthquake, the submerged houses after a flood and the lines of refugees moving away for their now unlivable city. Readers cannot help but be touched by the contrast, reminding them of footage seen daily on the news, of children left homeless by things outside their control, of children without the luck that keeps them safe.
Fran Knight

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