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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Agatha's Feather Bed

Agatha's Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story

by Carmen Agra Deedy
illustrated by Laura L. Seeley

"Everything comes from something,
Nothing comes from nothing.
Just like paper comes from trees,
And glass comes from sand,
An answer comes from a question.
All you have to do is ask."

 Agatha has the kind of store I'd like to shop in (or own, for that matter). A tiny store sandwiched between two skyscrapers, plumb in Manhattan, where she sells beautiful fabrics, among other things. She never misses a chance to tell the kids who ask about her fabrics how everything comes from something - wool from sheep, linen from flax, cotton from cotton bolls.

One evening, she closes the store early, even skips doing the customary 100 strokes of brushing her long hair, so she can get into her new feather bed. A bed she has been working hard and saving enough to buy. A bed that will replace her lumpy, bumpy old bed.

 But, rather than a quiet night of peaceful slumber in her new feather bed, she is hounded by six freezing-cold, naked geese who sound pretty miffed. "Where do you think those feathers came from, Agatha?" they ask, giving her the third degree.

 Agatha realizes her folly and promises to make up for it, asking them to return in a few days.

So, what does Agatha do? When the geese return she hands them warm, woven & sewn coats of perfect fit. And where did those coats come from? Everything must come from something.

À la The Gift of the Magi, Agatha cut her beautiful long hair to make the coats. Hair will grow back. Meanwhile, the geese are compensated and cared for, warm and goosebumps-less.

The book ends with an intriguing, "Where do goose eggs come from, anyway?" encouraging the children to ask all the right questions even if there may not be any ready answers.

 The layers of ideas woven into this book makes it a favorite with me as a parent. That, and the numerous fowl-related idioms.

The beautiful illustrations with all the little details Ms. Seeley tucks in makes it a favorite with my kids. Ideas like, If we take something, we must give back; Making a small personal sacrifice to make amends is not only noble but richly rewarding; Mutually beneficial trade and exchange makes the world go around; Championing for animal rights is not just an obligation but our duty.

This cleverly crafted book is at once a whimsical tale and a wealth of information. While the pun and word play appeal to the older readers, there is much that young readers can glean from this book, especially with the intricate illustrations on each page.

This is one of the few books my nine year old asked to read aloud to me after her initial read, pointing out the details in the pictures, and using her voice to champion for the geese even as she tries to justify Agatha's need for a comfortable bed. The clever wordplay and idioms gave me the opportunity to talk to my kids about idioms* and expressions in the language.

 [*one other book that we love reading simply for the idioms (and the gorgeous illustrations) is Monkey Business by Wallace Edrwards.]

This post written for Saffron Tree's Children's Book Week Celebration.

Read an interview with Carmen Agra Deedy at Saffron Tree.


[image source: http://carmenagradeedy.com/books/]


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