cover image FRIENDS OF A FEATHER: One of Life's Little Fables

FRIENDS OF A FEATHER: One of Life's Little Fables

Bill Cosby, , illus. by Erika Cosby. . HarperEntertainment, $16.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-06-009147-7

Despite its worthy messages and its author's track record as an entertainer, this volume is a disappointment. The tale describes a flock of birds whose stunt-flying attracts repeat audiences of humans. The narrator, Slippers, says he used to be "the bird. I mean The Bird." Then another bird, Feathers, gained the spotlight with his large wingspan and his extraordinary plumage. Five spreads with lengthy text describe Feather's beauty and his flying feats before Slippers introduces the main character, a plain-looking "dude" named Hog who takes huge risks in a fruitless pursuit of the crowd's adulation. The moral, to some extent obscured by the garrulous delivery, touts the importance of doing things for their own sake and not to impress others. The illustrator, Bill Cosby's daughter, renders props and characters in a straightforward, frontal style, and mounts them atop abstractly patterned backgrounds in the three-quarter-spread illustrations; the hand-lettered text floats atop crumpled colored-paper fields in the remaining quarter. The dissonant combination of elements and styles exacerbates the story's twisty development. With its copious digressions, folksy vocabulary and exaggerations, the text comes across as a transcription of oral storytelling; what might work in a live performance can seem coy on the page. Ages 4-up. (May)