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Feathers and Fools


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About the Author

MEM FOX is the author of many acclaimed books, including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Possum Magic, Koala Lou, Time for Bed, and, for adults, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She lives in Adelaide, Australia.


This powerful allegory portrays the dire reactions of a "pride of magnificent peacocks" and a "flock of elegant swans" who cannot see beyond their differences. Upon noticing that the swans can fly and swim, the proud but insecure peacocks are infected by a blind fear that incites a build-up of arms: "a great quantity of feathers which they sharpened into arrows." The swans respond in like manner, and the two species hurl toward mutual destruction. However, "the bloodstained stillness" is redeemed when two chance hatchlings emerge; their celebration of what they hold in common augurs a peaceful coexistence. Fox's (Time for Bed) analogies strike familiar poses of human aggression and nuclear holocaust. While the text's pointed poetry will sink directly into children's hearts, debut illustrator Wilton's symbolically sophisticated, lushly colored acrylic paintings may be too static for younger readers; their mysteries, however, offer sensitive viewers possibilities for contemplation and discovery. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)

Gr 1-4‘An antiwar allegory. A pride of peacocks notices that a flock of nearby swans can both swim and fly, feats they themselves cannot do. They wonder if the swans will use their strength aggressively. Soon they convince themselves that they are in danger, and begin stockpiling arms‘only to be used defensively, of course. The swans then gather their own weapons. Fear and tension increase until the war both groups have been preparing for breaks out, triggered by a nervous mistake. "Soon cries filled the air and blood darkened the earth." Two eggs survive, two chicks hatch, a swan and a peacock. They recognize one another as fellow birds, more alike than different, and stumble away to share the world. This allegory is alive with symbolic references and ideas. The pictures, however, are what lift the story out of the ordinary. Wilton's full-page acrylic paintings on the right are framed with primitive borders laid against a second border of solid black. The left-hand page displays brief text set on a background of geometric and natural forms in symbolic shapes (roses and thorns, snakes and fish) in colors that are shaded with darkness but nonetheless vivid. This tale will be an easy step-off to discussion of the late arms-race, perhaps helping to clarify thoughts, even to changing opinions. Fox clearly implies that war is the result of stupidity and unreasonable fear.‘Ruth Semrau, formerly at Lovejoy School, Allen, TX

Turns Fox into a contemporary Aesop.--Kirkus Reviews
Powerful...The text's pointed poetry will sink directly into children's hearts.--Publishers Weekly
This allegory is alive with symbolic references and ideas....Vivid.--School Library Journal

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