cover image Feather


Cao Wenxuan, trans. from the Chinese by Chloe Garcia-Roberts, illus. by Roger Mello. Elsewhere, $18 (48p) ISBN 978-0-914671-85-5

“Am I yours?” a feather asks each bird she meets. She’s searching for the one who dropped her: “If I belonged to a bird, I could fly even higher!” Mello—like Cao, a recent winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award—traces the balletic curves of bird forms: a heron’s neck (“You aren’t mine,” the heron says), the outstretched wings of geese (they ignore Feather), the tail of a peacock (“Perhaps you haven’t looked carefully enough”). A skylark grants Feather’s wish and carries her aloft, then meets a dreadful fate in the talons of a hawk: “Feather heard the sound of a scream in the air.” Feather’s heritage, she discovers, is less grand than she imagined—but it’s her own. Mello’s artwork offers countless delights: the plumage of the birds, contrasting backdrops that make the colors blaze, and liberal use of empty space. Cao’s story has the timeless quality of a traditional folk tale (and the brutality of one, with its offstage murder), and it speaks to the way that desires have consequences that can’t be calculated. It’s not comfort Feather’s search offers, but truth and beauty. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)