The Grubby Feather Gang by Antony Wootten
A story about war without being a graphic tale that actually involves battle, strategic planning or overt violence, The Grubby Feather Gang offers up debatable perspectives of war. Antony Wootten focuses mainly on school age children in his book, but the children’s parents most certainly come into play. It’s 1916 and George continually has to deal with a bully, who seems to sometimes be his friend. Stan often finds unpleasant ways to force George to do his homework, for example. A new girl, Emma, comes to town, and George soon discovers she is a bit mischievous. She devises a plan to get back at Stan for bullying George, but this ultimately backfires. George’s behavior throughout somewhat mirrors his father’s, but this is a sore point for George. The deeper story within is that George’s father is a pacifist and refuses to go to war; therefore, the townspeople bully him as they believe him to be a coward and a traitor. Though in the end, just as in war, it’s not all hearts and flowers, there are friendships built that will last a lifetime.
Fairly well-written, The Grubby Feather Gang is an interesting read and could easily be a great book for discussion on the topic of war and fighting with one’s children or students. George, Stan, and Emma end up in a number of situations that are truly moral dilemmas. Antony Wootten does a nice job of getting the reader to see that each character, including the children’s abrasive teacher, behave in certain ways that one simply cannot understand without digging deeper into the person’s circumstances. The challenges that adults and children face due to war, bullying, and crime are laid out for further discussion if one is willing to take the time to ponder what these things really mean to the lives of the characters and how he or she might have reacted in said situation. A nice read to start a conversation on oftentimes hushed topics, The Grubby Feather Gang is a great book to read together with one’s older elementary to middle and high school age children.
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