Summary: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson is story narrated of Frannie, an African American sixth grader back in 1971. She has not had an easy life. She deals with her mother, who has had three miscarriages, her deaf brother, her over religious friend Samantha, and the school bully, who is constantly picking on the new white student everyone is calling Jesus. All Frannie has is hope to keep her moving forward.

Cultural Markers: Jacqueline Woodson is of African descent, and you can find a lot of cultural markers in her book. Skin color is huge in this book. Frannie and her family is African American. Our protagonist Frannie, not only has been through a lot, you can feel through Woodson’s writing that to her and her family, their skin color has a huge effect on who they are personally. Which is why everyone makes such a huge deal out of this new “Jesus” kid.  The setting also plays a huge role in the cultural marker. It is the early 1970s, and the Civil Rights movement is just starting to settle down. Samanthas’ father is a Baptist minister, a religion that a lot of African Americans in the South are a part of. There is also some relevant culture related dialect in the form of communication with adults. For example, Frannie refers to her mother as “Mama”.

Awards: John Newberry Medal

Personal Reflections: This story may be set forty five years in the past, but I feel like the lesson we learn through the hardships of Frannie is nonetheless a relevant one today. At just eleven years old, she had gone through a lot in her life. I feel like a lot of students go through what she does with her family. Frannie resorts to Emily Dickinson’s poem as guidance throughout the story, and students today also look at poetry and other forms of writing to find the answers to their every day life. There is also a nice touch to other events, such as the Vietnam War, which is a nice bonus to this book.

Review Excerpts:

From Publishers Weekly:  “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.”

From School Library Journal: “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.”

Similar Books: https://www.goodreads.com/book/similar/264041-feathers

Lesson Plans: https://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?aid=1406&a=1&a2=1

Woodson, J. (2007). Feathers. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN:0142415502


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