It’s Monday! We Are Reading a Book Recommended by a Character #SOL17
Our TBR stack is not self-sustaining! We get recommendations every day from students, teachers, friends, neighbors, family members, librarians, blog posts, and reviews. This summer we got a recommendation that took us by surprise. It was from a character in a book. A character who loved a book so much that we had to read it.
Mrs. Lorentz, a librarian, encourages the main character Ben, in When Friendship Followed Me Home, to read Feathers by Jaqueline Woodson. At first, we did not even realize this was a true literacy reference. We did not know of Feathers, so we immediately looked it up to if it was a real book. Once we discovered it was an actual book it was on our minds as we read and journeyed with Ben and Halley throughout the novel, When Friendship Followed Me Home.
We were not ready to say goodbye to Ben and Halley when we read the last page of this book. They stayed with us for many months. This book was one of our favorites from 2016. I decided to listen to the audio version again in October. This time I knew I had to read Feathers. I needed that connection with Ben and Halley. I wanted to read it with them. I went directly to the book store on my way home from work and picked it up.
Feathers is an inspiring book about hope and the power of our words. The main character Frannie, a sixth grade girl, is grappling with ideas of hope, equality, and acceptance. Frannie is fascinated with this poem by Emily Dickinson:
Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune– without the words,
And never stops at all
Frannie spends the book trying to understand hope and how it has feathers. Woodson sends clear messages about the power of story, hope and acceptance in this book. It is set in the 1970s and examines what it is like to grow up in an urban setting just after segregation is outlawed. Topics of race, religion, and equality are explored. The characters in this book learn from each other as each faces his or her own realities and searches for meaning.
Mrs. Johnson, the teacher, encourages the students to write to help them find meaning and hope.
“Ms. Johnson says everybody has a story. She said some of us are afraid to tell ours and that’s why when it comes time to write something, we say we have writer’s block. Ms. Johnson says there’s no such thing as writer’s block. She said it’s just your mind saying to your body, I ain’t trying to write that jive.” (110)
Through writing Mrs. Johnson teaches them to savor the moments in their lives and in these moments discover hope.
“Ms. Johnson says each day hold its own memory – its own moments that we can write about later. She says we should always look for the moments and some of them might be perfect, filled with light and hope and laughter. Moments that stay with us forever and ever.” (116)
Frannie learns many lessons in her quest to understand hope. She experiences moments of pain and moments of joy. In the end she comes to understand, the connection between life, hope and the power of choice. We must choose to savor our stories and see hope when others may not. Frannie ends the story by sharing her understanding of hope, “Each moment, I am thinking, is a thing with feathers.” (118)
While I recommend this book to teachers, middle grade readers and friends, I urge Slicers to read this book. It reflects everything Slice of Life represents – slowing down, noticing the ordinary, choosing to see, and discovering the moments of our lives. A community that comes to together to share our stories and connect with each other through response. We give each other hope through sharing our moments, our slices, with each other.