About the book
A story about hope, kindness and redemption set in a grey dystopian world. When a great feather drifts from the leaden sky, two children recognise its extraordinariness and take it to the village for its protection. The villagers, however, want to encase it, upon which the feather loses its radiance. The children take it home and care for it through the night. In the morning it is again radiant, and when they set it free it leaves behind the first signs of blue sky and colour. The ambiguous ending invites multiple interpretations about the effects of selflessness and kindness.
About the author
Margaret Wild was born in 1948 in Eschew, a small town in South Africa, and came to Australia in 1972. Before becoming a full-time writer, Margaret was a journalist for newspapers and magazines and then she worked for sixteen years as a book editor in children's publishing. Margaret's books explore a diverse range of themes, but she is particularly noted for exploring issues of identity, trust, and death. Margaret latest picture books with Little Hare include The Stone Lion (illustrated by Ritva Voutila), No More Kisses (Nina Rycroft) and Hush, Hush (illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo).
About the illustrator
Freya Blackwood was born in Edinburgh and grew up in Orange in NSW. After graduating from University of Technology Sydney in Visual Communications, Freya worked in the film industry. She began illustrating picture books in 2002 and has since been shortlisted for, and won many prestigious awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2010. Freya works and creates in her backyard studio.
A feather, a poignant symbol of hope, as epitomised in the well-known Emily Dickinson's poem, is at the centre of this thought-provoking and moving allegory.
When a feather falls from the darkened sky, Maria and Nico are seized by the wonder of it. The feather is huge, but also soft and light, and the children's joy of discovery has them hurtling to the village to share their miraculous find, so full of possibility. Here, in the grey world of a timeless village, the people gather. For some, the feather conjures up memories of light-filled days gone by, but to the people of power it is something to be shut away. Soon the feather becomes stained and is reviled as a 'hideous object'. But not to Maria and Nico. They can still see the hope and possibility in it. They haul it home, nurture it and ultimately help to set it free.
The compelling cover art and intriguing endpapers draw the reader in to this powerful work, where words and pictures work seamlessly together to tell a layered and evocative tale. Margaret Wild's text is spare, poetic and carefully chosen. It is rich in symbolism and metaphor and explores themes of hope, freedom, joy and possibility. The children's ability to accept the ambiguity and magic of the feather, to nurture it when it is sullied and never to lose hope makes a powerful statement, especially when juxtaposed with the narrow view and disdain of the townsfolk. The ending is cleverly open, granting readers the chance to ponder and to draw their own conclusions.
Freya Blackwood's art is stunning: considered and assured, and with much to discover from repeated viewings. Her figure drawing is wonderfully loose and emotive, and she uses colour, light and shade, perspective and scale to great effect, enriching the text and the symbolism of the feather. The feather itself is enormous—larger than the children—which immediately creates a sense of possibility, power and magic. The children are depicted as beacons of hope for the future through the stark contrast of the vast greyness of the village with the small pockets of oranges and reds of the children's clothing and the circle of light that surrounds them. The reader is gifted with three wordless spreads, where a shift from dark to light speaks volumes.
This is a magnificent picture book, brought to life through the collaboration of two masterful storytellers, consummate experts in their fields.