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Feathers and Fools

Feathers and Fools is an allegory about how wars can begin with a simple fear of others based on misconceptions. For some time the swans and peacocks have lived peacefully by a pond. One day the peacocks begin to contemplate the differences between themselves and their neighbours. This then leads to the fear that the swans may one day change the peacock's way of life. With this fear fully ingrained in their minds, they begin to build arms against their neighbours. "We shall hurl these arrows at their throats and slaughter everyone should they ever try to change our way of life."

Upon hearing this, the swans began to build arms against the peacocks in fear that they would be attacked. The fear grew as each group acquired more and more arms against each other. The peacocks soon mistook the action of a swan as an act of aggression and thus, a war began. "Soon cries filled the sir and blood darkened the earth." When all the feathers had settled, there were no birds to be found, both swans and peacocks had been destroyed.

Foxs antiwar story touches on a common issue many nations face and how humans handle the concept of war. As history has revealed, humans have begun wars often times with very little knowledge of their opponents on the battlefield. The author artfully displays how mankind, although similar in many ways can decimate each other because of our lack of knowledge of the similarities amongst all groups. At the end of the story, Fox gives us a hopeful ending with the hatching of a lone peacock and a lone swan. These young birds meet and notice how similar they are and soon become friends. "So off they went together, in peace and unafraid, to face the day and share the world." Fox recognizes that present and future generations hold the keys to ending war.

The main characters, swans and peacocks are interchangeable with any nation, country, or people who have endured wars and their aftermaths. The book also emphasizes the importance of learning from history and not repeating it. Illustrator Nicholas Wiltons paintings bring out the beauty of the worlds of the peacock and swan. With acrylic jewel tone paints, he captures the beauty of the peacocks bright feathers and the swans graceful profile. As the story progresses, you can see the changes of the birds body language and actions helping bring emphasis on how the building toward war changes reactions and opinions of the two sides. The paintings were created to evoke the feeling of a folktale or fable with its aged looks and block style borders. Feathers and Fools is a wonderful book that could open the possibility for the discussion of topics such as war, the arms race, and similarities amongst people and their ways of lives. This book could be used at all levels for discussion.

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