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FEATHER BOY by Nicky Singer

FEATHER BOY

By Nicky Singer

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: April 9th, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-72980-4
Publisher: Delacorte

A British import with Cormier-like undertones that explores the twinned themes of fear and courage. Robert, narrator of the tale, is “the class squit”—timorous and awkward, he is the easy butt of the vicious and charismatic Niker. He is unutterably lonely; although he has a loving relationship with his mother, she is hardly ever at home as she works to support the two of them in the wake of the departure of Robert’s father some years previous. When the class begins a project to match students with residents of a nearby nursing home to share life experiences, Robert finds himself paired with the imperious and slightly mad Mrs. Sorrel, who directs him to go to a condemned apartment building. Robert’s unwilling investigation leads to both a subtle but profound change in his relationship with Niker and an intense, almost mystical, attachment to the dying Mrs. Sorrel. There is a touch of the surreal in the telling of the story as Robert shifts his focus from his own misery to the pain, both past and present, of Mrs. Sorrel, and attempts to save her life by recreating the pattern of a Cree variant on the Selkie myth. Singer, a newcomer to writing for children, here displays a terrific sense of voice—“How come grown-ups are always so smart about your life, but not quite so smart about their own?”—and an ability to develop character, as she allows Robert to move from self-absorption and self-pity to real strength and an understanding that “you make your own luck.” The setting, a seaside British town in autumn, is beautifully realized, and the publisher should be congratulated for refraining from Americanizing most Briticisms. The metaphors of feathers and flight are omnipresent to the point of obviousness and Mrs. Sorrel herself is drawn with a regrettable lack of subtlety, but Robert’s voice, alternately wry and yearning, and the ambitious reach of the narrative carry the show. (Fiction. 10-14)