Cao Wenxuan’s Feather is the only children’s book which I have chosen to include upon my Reading the World list. It has been translated from its original Chinese by Chloe Garcia-Roberts, and has been written by China’s answer to Hans Christian Andersen. Feather felt like something a little different, both to read and to write about.
Feather opens with Wenxuan’s inspiration for writing the tale: ‘One day a great wind blew through Beijing. As I was walking into the gale I suddenly noticed a single white feather on the ground go fluttering and floating up into the sky… The feather was riding the wind with grace and ease yet at the same time precariously and helplessly.’ He wonders about the fate of the feather, and in his book, has made it visit a whole host of different birds to find out where it comes from. Whilst this circular structure has been designed for children, Wenxuan writes: ‘Underlying this simply story… are actually the core questions of human thought: where do I come from? Where do I want to go? Who do I belong to?’ Essentially, he has decided to emulate the human desire of finding a sense of belonging.
Roger Mello’s illustrations were my favourite part of Feather; they are both beautiful and quirky, and really augment the story. The writing itself is rather simplistic, as one might expect, but some very nice ideas have been woven into it. The use of the feather’s own perspective is rather sweet and imaginative: ‘How she longed for the sky! How she longed to soar!’ Feather is sure to delight children with a love of art and nature. It is difficult, however, to know which age group makes up the target audience; the text is not advanced enough for a lot of children, but includes too many words to make it accessible to younger readers.