cover image Feathers and Fools

Feathers and Fools

Mem Fox. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200473-6

This powerful allegory portrays the dire reactions of a ""pride of magnificent peacocks"" and a ""flock of elegant swans"" who cannot see beyond their differences. Upon noticing that the swans can fly and swim, the proud but insecure peacocks are infected by a blind fear that incites a build-up of arms: ""a great quantity of feathers which they sharpened into arrows."" The swans respond in like manner, and the two species hurl toward mutual destruction. However, ""the bloodstained stillness"" is redeemed when two chance hatchlings emerge; their celebration of what they hold in common augurs a peaceful coexistence. Fox's (Time for Bed) analogies strike familiar poses of human aggression and nuclear holocaust. While the text's pointed poetry will sink directly into children's hearts, debut illustrator Wilton's symbolically sophisticated, lushly colored acrylic paintings may be too static for younger readers; their mysteries, however, offer sensitive viewers possibilities for contemplation and discovery. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)