Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] small, fast-moving novel that introduces big issues....Woodson tells her story with immediacy and realism....A good choice for discussion." Booklist
"[Frannie] is a wonderful role model for coming of age in a thoughtful way, and the book offers to teach us all about holding on to hope." Children's Literature
"I wondered how such a slender little novel would hold up under the weight of such topics as hope, healing, faith, and understanding. The answer is: It does and without any heavy-handedness or manipulation on the part of the author." Jenny Sawyer, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
When a new, white student nicknamed "The Jesus Boy" joins her sixth grade class in the winter of 1971, Frannie's growing friendship with him makes her start to see some things in a new light.
A Newbery Honor winner takes readers on a journey into a young girl's heart and reveals the pain and joy of learning to look beneath the surface in this new novel.
"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.
Inspired by a poem she read at school, Frannie begins to see her world in a new light and deals with her brother's deafness, her mother's fear, and her best friend's faith in a hopeful new way.
About the Author
Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, is the author of Newbery Honor winner Show Way, Miracle's Boys (recipient of a Coretta Scott King Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Locomotion and Hush (both National Book Award Finalists), among many others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.