Literary Criticism and Significance

Jacqueline Woodson is the celebrated author of over twenty-five books for children and young adults, most dealing with serious themes of gender, class, and race in innovative ways. Woodson has received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. She has won Newbery Honors for both Feathers andShow Way, she has received a Coretta Scott King Award and a Los Angeles Times book prize, and she is a two-time finalist for the National Book Award. According to Woodson, she was inspired to write Feathersbecause she “wanted to write about the many ways people find hope in the world.”

Reviewers responded positively to the strong message of hope Woodson conveys throughout Feathers, and the book also received notice as one of the few young adult novels to address the issue of deafness. Publisher’s Weekly praised the novel’s perceptive protagonist who allows readers to experience “a ripple of changes” though her eyes. The reviewer also noted the expert weaving of historical events and music throughout the novel, as well as the piercing questions about God, segregation, and issues surrounding deafness the author raises.Writing for the School Library Journal, D. Maria LaRocca lauded the book's “thoughtfulness” and its ability to speak to young people struggling with “race, faith, and prejudice.” In Booklist, Hazel Rochman noted the strength of Woodson’s immediate, realistic writing style and added that the novel’s “big issues” will provide ample food for discussion. Jenny Sawyer for the Christian Science Monitor also praised the novels “deep” and “expansive” themes, which hold up without any “heavy-handedness or manipulation” despite the novel’s brevity. She highlighted the small moments of hope on which the novel is built—moments that, she says, will stay with readers “long after the final page.” Finally, in a review for Children’s Book Page, Robin Smith noted Woodson’s “exquisite, spare prose” and the complexity of the deceptively brief story dealing with the conflicts of both school and family life. She concluded that the book “filled me with joy. And hope.”