The double meaning of the title of this French import will likely be lost on young readers who do not know that “plume” means “feather,” since “Plume” is the name of the black cat who stalks mysteriously through the pages, clearly with evil designs on the birds portrayed.
As with her earlier picture book Blue Hour (2017), Simler portrays her subject matter—birds and their feathers—in finely rendered, realistic detail. However, the birds chosen are not always specifically named, and many species are not found in North America, lessening the book’s appeal for readers on this continent. For example, the nuthatch, jay, and kingfisher featured in the book are Eurasian species, so there is little chance of a child in the U.S. finding one of these feathers or being able to identify them. A gull is simply identified as “Seagull,” likewise for the highly stylized owl; the “Eagle” is clearly a bald eagle. The attractiveness of the illustrations compensates in large part for these flaws. The black cat’s presence is charmingly hinted at in each illustration, sometimes just as an ear, a tail, or a whisker peeking from the edge of the spread, sometimes almost hidden behind the bird. On the last spread, Plume is completely visible, clutching a feather and saying innocently, “Oh…me? / I collect feathers… //…because I love overstuffed pillows. / I am a dreamer cat. / They call me Plume.”
Lovely, if a bit frustrating. (Picture book. 2-5)