Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review - Feather

by Cao Wenxuan
illustrated by Roger Mello
Date: 2017
Publisher: Elsewhere Editions
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

A philosophical picture book from one of China's most celebrated children's authors and 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award-winner Cao Wenxuan.

A feather is blown across the sky, meeting various birds along the way, and asking each one, "Do I belong to you?"

Cao Wenxuan tells the story of a single feather who is swept away on a journey of discovery and belonging. Encountering a variety of birds, from a kingfisher to a magpie, Feather is hopeful of meeting the bird she belongs to. Again and again, she is dismissed or ignored. Only when she sees that there is also beauty in being close to the earth does fate offer a reunion... Feather is sure to charm young children with a plot at once compelling, meditative, and quietly moving. Roger Mello’s stunningly beautiful, dynamic illustrations will delight readers of all ages.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

There are some picture books that just wouldn't appeal to children. This is probably one of them. It has the same basic plot as P. D. Eastman's Are You My Mother? but without the cute illustrations or PG story. (In fact, Feather involves blood and death. It's the circle of life, but it's pretty brutal for what's supposed to be a meditative picture book.)

I didn't like the illustrations here. They're dull, simplistic, and often don't make a lot of sense. (We get decorative vases and koi ponds that don't seem to serve any function in the story; they're just there to look pretty.) The colour palette is muted and some of the birds look rather... well, impossible. They're heavily stylized and not very realistic.

A newly hatched baby bird looking for its mother is pushing it, but an anthropomorphized feather is just a step too far for me. If I'd come across this book as a child, I think it would've gone right back on the shelf after the first few pages (which is probably a good thing; I wouldn't have gotten to the poor skylark being eaten).

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 1/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.67 out of 5

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