Featherless/Desplumado Review

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"I want to fly like an eagle, till I'm free. Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me." -- Steve Miller Band, 1976
"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles;
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary." -- Isaiah, 40:31
Tomasito, a tween (8-12) lives with his single father in a small trailer in Fresno, California. New in town from Mendota, Tomasito fears being excluded and ostracized by his peers because he has spina bifida and needs a wheelchair.
To give his son some inspiration, Tomasito's father buys him a little bird. The first things Tomasito notices about the bird is that he is featherless (desplumado) and that he has a withered leg. Tomasito wonders why on earth his Papi bought him such a bird, but his wise Papi tells him that the bird CAN fly, but in a very different way.
Meanwhile, on the school front, Tomasito is coping with a new set of kids and rules. One girl, Marlena, reaches out to him and even encourages him to join the school soccer team. She sees beyond Tomasito's wheelchair and really insists that he join the team. Tomasito thinks it over and even has a dream about flying with his bird, Desplumado.
Luckily, Tomasito takes Marlena's advice. He does join the soccer team and, once having spread his wings, so to speak, he in turn is able to love and reach out to his beautiful bird, the key to Tomasito tapping into his inner resources.
This is a beautiful book with lovely illustrations. It is written in English and Spanish so readers can get comfortable with both languages. That is also a form of cultural sharing. Tomasito's kind Papi and his friend Marlena as well as Desplumado will find permanent places in the hearts of those who read this story. This masterpiece of a book belongs in classrooms and in families.
Nathan's Wish: A Story about Cerebral Palsy is a good companion book to this gem.

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