French artist Courgeon crafts a story about housework, boxing, and girl power in this picture book translated into English by Bedrick.
Paulina, a motherless girl from a working-class Russian-immigrant family, arm-wrestles her three loving but selfish older brothers over who has to do the chores. Nicknamed “Feather,” she usually loses, and the endless laundry cuts into her beloved piano practice. One day she takes up boxing lessons, “And the more she trained, the more she beat her brothers.” But boxing turns her fingers “red and swollen,” which also keeps her from her instrument. Her first triumph in the ring transforms her family into one with a more feminist distribution of housework, “and the melodious sounds of the piano filled their apartment once more.” The narrative moves in fits and jerks, making for a somewhat clumsy read-aloud, and the brief listing of Paulina’s feminist icons feels shoehorned in. The illustrations shine, however, with gorgeous, intricate scenes of Paulina’s home life and training, thoughtful portraits of each character, and little treats such as boxing gloves arranged in a heart. It may be a bit lackluster in the message, but on the whole it’s a beautiful and unusual tale of family and strength.
Gorgeous and vaguely inspirational, this French import is slightly tricky to read but satisfying to pore over. (Picture book. 4-8)