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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Cao Wenxuan
Age Range: 6-8
A single feather is swept away by the wind as she embarks on a quest to discover to whom she belongs. Sometimes, when there is no wind at all she waits in a tuft of wild grass or a pile of leaves. Feather is all alone. She longs to be able to soar into the sky and when her wish is granted by a kind-hearted skylark they float together in the air. On her journey Feather encounters many different birds, including a kingfisher, cuckoo, heron, peacock and magpie, always asking them the same question, “Am I yours?” Again and again, she is dismissed or ignored. Will Feather ever discover who she belongs to?
Award-winning Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, (author of Bronze and Sunflower), has written a moving, timeless story, with a sensitive translation by Chloe Garcia Roberts. Wenxuan is a natural storyteller and the meditative and sagacious tale meanders gently along combining with an essence of Zen philosophy – an understanding of the meaning of life. As the author says in his powerful introduction, the character choices and repetitive structure are designed for children, but underlying the simple story are core questions of human thought such as: – where do I come from? Where do I want to go? Who do I belong to? “Feather’s journey is really a human journey of searching for a sense of belonging.”
Brazilian artist Roger Mello’s illustrations are striking. The exquisite plumage of each of the birds as they take centre stage on double-page spreads is contrasted with the use of empty space and backdrops rich in colour. The Unusual book design with two sizes of pages – a shorter series of pages in the earlier part of the story showing half a feather as an abstract silhouette on the right border – moves to full length pages as Feather finds who she belongs to.
This is the first collaboration between Wenxuan and Mello, both of whom are recent Hans Christian Andersen award winners, and the result is a bewitching book for all ages.