Feathersby Jacqueline Woodson
“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/b>/i>
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.
The narrator of Woodson's 2008 Newbery Honor title is fascinated with Emily Dickinson's famous couplet "Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul." Frannie grapples with its meaning, especially after a white student joins her all-black sixth-grade classroom. Trevor, the classroom bully, nicknames him "Jesus Boy," because he is "pale and his hair [is] long." Frannie's best friend, a preacher's daughter, suggests 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?"). Set in 1971, the book raises important questions about religion and racial segregation, as well as issues surrounding the hearing-impaired (Frannie's brother is deaf). Johnson, who also voiced Woodson's Hush, sensitively renders Frannie's narration, and her slow delivery affords listeners the opportunity to fully experience Frannie's keen perceptions. Subtle changes in inflections distinguish the many characters' voices in a skillful performance that enlarges the book's already wide appeal. Ages 9-up. A Putnam hardcover. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Table of Contents
An Exciting Preview of: Brown Girl Dreaming
An Exciting Preview of: Peace, Locomotion
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First published in the United States of America by G. P. Putnam’s Sons,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2009
Copyright © Jacqueline Woodson, 2007
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Feathers / Jacqueline Woodson.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune—without the words,
And never stops at all
His coming into our classroom that morning was the only new thing. Everything else was the same way it’d always been. The snow coming down. Ms. Johnson looking out the window, then after a moment, nodding. The class cheering because she was going to let us go out into the school yard at lunchtime.
It had been that way for days and days.
And then, just before the lunch bell rang, he walked into our classroom.
Stepped through that door white and softly as the snow.
The class got quiet and the boy reached into his pocket and pulled something out. A note for you, Ms. Johnson, the boy said. And the way his voice sounded, all new and soft in the room, made most of the class laugh out loud.
But Ms. Johnson gave us a look and the class got quiet.
Now isn’t this the strangest thing, I thought, watching the boy.
Just that morning I’d been thinking about the year I’d missed a whole month of school, showing up in late October after everybody had already buddied up. I’d woken up with that thought and, all morning long, hadn’t been able to shake it.
The boy was pale and his hair was long—almost to his back. And curly—like my own brother’s hair but Mama would never let Sean’s hair grow that long. I sat at my desk, staring at his hair, wondering what a kid like that was doing in our school—with that long, curly hair and white skin and all.
And he was skinny too. Tall and skinny with white, white hands hanging down below his coat sleeves. Skinny white neck showing above his collar. Brown corduroy bell-bottoms like the ones I was wearing. Not a pair of gloves in sight, just a beat-up dark green book bag that looked like it had a million things in it hanging heavy from his shoulder.
Ms. Johnson said, “Welcome to our sixth-grade classroom,” and the boy looked up at her and smiled.
Trevor was sitting in the row in front of me, and when the boy smiled, he coughed but the cough was trying to cover up a word that we weren’t allowed to say. Ms. Johnson shot him a look and Trevor just shrugged and tapped his pencil on his desk like he was tapping out a beat in his head. The boy looked at Trevor and Trevor coughed the word again but softer this time. Still, Ms. Johnson heard it.
“You have one more chance, Mr. Trevor,” Ms. Johnson said, opening her attendance book and writing something in it with her red pen. Trevor glared at the boy but didn’t say the word again. The boy stared back at him—his face pale and calm and quiet. I had never seen such a calm look on a kid. Grown-ups could look that way sometimes, but not the kids I knew. The boy’s eyes moved slowly around the classroom but his head stayed still. It felt like he was seeing all of us, taking us in and figuring us out. When his eyes got to me, I made a face, but he just smiled a tiny, calm smile and then his eyes moved on.
I looked down at my notebook. Beneath my name, I had written the date—Wednesday, January 6, 1971. The day before, Ms. Johnson had read us a poem about hope getting inside you and never stopping. I had written that part of the poem down—Hope is the thing with feathers—because I had loved the sound of it. Loved the way the words seemed to float across my notebook.
When I told Mama about the poem, she’d said, Welcome to the seventies, Frannie. Sounds like Ms. Johnson’s trying to tell you all something about looking forward instead of back all the time. I just stared at Mama. The poem was about hope and how hope had these feathers on it. It didn’t have a single thing to do with looking forward or back or even sideways. But then Sean came home and I told him about the poem and the crazy thing Mama had said. Sean smiled and shook his head. You’re a fool, he signed to me. The word doesn’t have feathers. It’s a metaphor. Don’t you learn anything at Price?
So maybe the seventies is the thing with feathers. Maybe it was about hope and moving forward and not looking behind you. Some days, I tried to understand all that grown-up stuff. But a lot of it still didn’t make any sense to me.
When I looked up from my notebook, Ms. Johnson had assigned the boy a seat close to the front of the room, and when he sat down, I heard him let out a sigh.
Something about the way the new boy sat there, with his shoulders all slumped and his head bent down, made me blink hard. The sadness came on fast. I tried to think of something different, the Christmas that had just passed and the presents I’d gotten. Mama’s face when Daddy leaned across the couch to hug her tight. My older brother, Sean, holding up a basketball jersey and signing, I forgot I told you I wanted this! His face all broken out into a grin, his hands flying through the air. I put the picture of the sign for forgot in my head—four fingers sliding across the forehead like they’re wiping away a thought. Sometimes the signs took me to a different thinking place.
The bell rang and Ms. Johnson said, “I’ll do a formal introduction after lunch.”
All of us got up at the same time and stood in two straight lines, girls on one side, boys on the other. Ms. Johnson led us out of the classroom and down the hall toward the cafeteria. As usual, Rayray acted the fool, doing some crazy dance steps and a quick half-split when Ms. Johnson wasn’t looking.
Trevor turned to the boy and whispered, “Don’t no pale-faces go to this school. You need to get your white butt back across the highway.”
“I know I don’t hear anyone talking behind me,” Ms. Johnson said before the boy could say anything back. But the boy just stared at Trevor as we walked. Even after, when Trevor turned back around, the boy continued looking.
“Face forward, Frannie,” Ms. Johnson said. I turned forward.
“You’re just as pale as I am . . . my brother,” I heard the boy say.
When I turned around again, the boy was looking at Trevor, his face still calm even though the words he’d just spoken were hanging in the air.
Trevor took a deep breath, but before he could turn around again, Ms. Johnson did. She looked at the boy and raised her eyebrows.
“We don’t talk while we’re on line,” she said. “Do we?”
“No, Ms. Johnson,” the whole class said.
When Rayray saw how mad Trevor was getting, he looked scared. When he saw me watching him, he pointed to the boy and pulled his finger across his neck.
“If I have to ask you to turn around again, Frannie, I’m pulling you up here with me.”
I faced forward again.
Trevor was light, lighter than most of the other kids who went to our school, and blue-eyed. On the first day of school, Rayray made the mistake of asking him if he was part white and Trevor hit him. Hard. After that, nobody asked that question anymore. But I had heard Mama and a neighbor talking about Trevor’s daddy, how he was a white man who lived across the highway. And for a while, there were lots of kids at school whispering. But nobody said anything to Trevor. As the months passed and he kept getting in trouble for hitting people, we figured out that he had a mean streak in him—one minute he’d be smiling, the next his blue eyes would get all small and he’d be ramming himself into somebody who’d said the wrong thing or given him the wrong look. Sometimes, he’d just sneak up behind a person and slap the back of their head—for no reason. The whole class was a little bit afraid of him, but Rayray was a lot afraid.
As we walked down the hall, I stared at Trevor’s back, wondering how long the boy would have to wait before he got his head slapped.
I could smell burgers and French fries in the cafeteria. Mr. Hungry was hollering loud in my stomach, so I didn’t think anything else about the boy until he showed up on the lunch line in front of me. I watched him take a fish sandwich, French fries and chocolate pudding. The fish sandwiches were for the kids that didn’t like burgers and usually, at the end of lunch period, there were a whole lot of fish sandwiches left. I wrinkled my nose at his tray and tried to grab two burgers.
“You know the rules, Frannie,” Miss Costa, the lunch lady, said. “Come back when you’re done with the first one.”
“I was just trying to save myself a trip,” I said, putting a burger back.
The boy looked over his shoulder and smiled at me again. Then he went and sat over in the corner, under the loudspeaker.
I sat down across from Maribel Tanks only because it was right next to Samantha.
“Have you lost your mind,” I whispered to Samantha.
Samantha just looked at me with one of her eyebrows raised and I knew she was thinking what she was always saying, which was I’m not the one that doesn’t like Maribel—that’s you.
Me and Samantha went back to first grade together. One day, I was just this little kid alone in the first grade, coming into class a month after everyone. For a whole week, I didn’t have a single friend. And then, the next week, there was Samantha walking over to me, saying, “Do you want to play?” Even though we weren’t the kind of friends that always spent every single second together and dressed alike and stuff like that, we hung real tight at school.
Me and Maribel never played. We hardly even talked. She had gone to private school and then, in fourth grade, that school closed, and since her parents didn’t want to send her across the highway for private school, she came to Price. But, to hear her tell it, you’d think she was still in some high and mighty private school—always finding some kind of way to drop it into a conversation, always wrinkling her nose at me like she couldn’t even believe we had to share the same air.
I looked over at the boy. He had his head bent over his food like he was praying.
Meet the Author
Born on February 12th in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, two Coretta Scott King awards, two National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Although she spends most of her time writing, Woodson also enjoys reading the works of emerging writers and encouraging young people to write, spending time with her friends and her family, and sewing. Jacqueline Woodson currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
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Frannie, the protagonist in the story, is searching for the meaning of poem she has heard in school. The poem is by Emily Dickinson and says "hope is the thing with feathers." Frannie doesn't know what that means, but she likes it. Frannie is so occupied with other events in her life that she doesn't have much time to think about hope. Her mother has a constant fear of losing another child, her brother is deaf, there is a bully at her school, a strange boy suddenly appears at the new school who people refer to as the Jesus boy, and her friend Samantha, seems a little more holy than usual. Frannie comes to see and experience things in a new light during the book. She begins to accept and understand things with a new outlook. Maybe she is learning the meaning to that thing with feathers. Personally, I felt the book was okay but not terrific. I had trouble staying focused while I was reading. I feel like it is a slow read. There was not a lot of action and really no plot. I don't understand what the "point" of the book was. There were good messages conveyed in the book like accepting people for who they are, family values, overcoming fear, and standing up to bullies.
I lpve feathers best book ever
This book is amazing. It is touching and really explainded a lot about racism. I felt sorry for Jesus Boy. He was descriminated against because of the color of his skin. Just like some of us lighter skinned people do to darker skinned people sometimes. It is very very wrong. Boooo racism!!!
Read this book for a graduate level master's class. Woodson is a remarkable, thoughtful, and extremely talented writer and this book certainly shows it. Told from a young girl's persepctive. Her brother is deaf and a new white boy comes to their school (they live in the black neighborhood - set in the late 1960s, early 1970s). The story focuses on seeing beyond people's differences to see how we are all the same while weaving in a message of hope. Quick and easy read but will certainly make you think about it for a long time after reading it. Children in 5th or 6th grade could read it and I recommend it for all ages, even adults.
This book, about sixth grader Frannie, who leads a normal life, brought me to realize so many important things. This story portrays how difference (her brother's deafness, "Jesus-Boy"'s skin color) can be celebrated, and can bring good. It also shows that life is a gift and hope is something that shouldn't be taken for granted. I learned a lot from this book, it has really implanted some important things in my heart and mind. Thank you, Jacqueline Woodson for turning everything that seems important in life into a heart-warming story.
Frannie a spunky sixth grader frequently reminds herself of the poem Ms. Johnson read in class. Hope is a thing that should have feathers becomes the characters strong hold throughout the entire story. Living on that side of the highway she faces reality issues such as dealing with segregation, poverty, friendship, a hearing impaired brother, sickness of her mother, and she is beginning to question religion in her own life. The character reflects deeply on the simple everyday occurrences that she encounters which all begins when the new kid named ¿Jesus¿ arrives. Like Frannie herself the mysterious ¿Jesus¿ finds himself against insurmountable odds. Can this be the real ¿Jesus¿? The students in Ms. Johnson¿s class including the bully Trevor and his side kick Rayray intend on finding out. In the process the characters begin to examine themselves and their circumstances looking for hope.
Frannie, the main character, comes from what seems like a typical 1970's African American family, two parents and a brother. Very middle class if it weren¿t for the segregation she faced. She seems like a fairly average sixth grader. However, she has come to the point in her life where she is examining things more closely, her brother, her long time best friend, her mother¿s pregnancy, and the new 'Jesus' kid in class. This book's central conflict is not a major crisis it shows how to deal with every day situations that kids Frannie's age are still dealing with today. This ¿normalcy¿ is what makes this book so magical, there is no one that comes to save the day. It¿s how they (all of the characters) handle the situations life throws at them. I realize Frannie was living in a very segregated situation, but the issues she faces are very timely. Most students will be able to relate to the moral dilemma of how to handle a disagreement with a friend or the threat of a bully. The Dickenson poem is brought up throughout the story, reminding readers to keep hope alive. Sometimes perception is everything, it clearly shows how to look for hope in the midst of 6th grade. I really enjoyed this book.
She walks in.
Dipped her head
This book is subtle... and amazing. Having read quite a few of Ms. Woodson's previous books, I expected good, even maybe great... and was not disappointed. There are enough reviews describing the plot, storyline, etc. But it is the subtleties of the characters, not the obvious, in-your-face parts, but the interaction that Ms. Woodson does so well. This is an excellent portrayal of young minds, worth the read.
Ill leave if your want me to.
Maybe when young, they cannot control their powers. So they might turn into thr Wereanimal they are if angry or something. Though as they get older, they will be able to turn at will instead of according to emotions. That explains my condition, since im 12
Hises everyone out of her den. LEAVE ME ALONE!!!
"You need NO PUNISHMENTS?"
Please look at the post on third result for "feathers"i would really like to join your clan if i can my name is stormheart my description os on the other page. Thanks for reading my post :)
WOLFMOONS GOING TO KILL YOU ROSESTAR!!!!!!
"Stand in front of Rosestar" NO ONE IS GOIN TO KILL HER! AS LONG AS IM STELL STANDDING HERE NOTHINGS GOING TO HURT HER!!!! Rosestar i will protect you dont worry.
Have you chosen Shadowpelt over me? ~Leafdapple
Need a mate
So? Were mating.
I read this at school with my reading partner. I don't like it, there's no exitement or adventure. It's good writing, but it hardly has a plotline. This book isn't worth buying.
This book is really good and I read it on a nook. This book is fantastic and awesome.