Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: Feathers and Fools

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Feathers and Fools written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Nicholas Wilton is a story about two different flocks of birds living very close to each other.  The peacocks lived in the beautiful garden and the swans live on the clear blue lake.  One day a foolish peacock told the rest of his flock that it was good that peacocks do not swim or fly like the swans, otherwise they would surely drown and look silly flying around.  The other peacocks listened to his words but did not say another.  Then the foolish peacock opened his mouth again and this time said that he feared the swans.  He felt they had great strength and could run the peacocks out of their garden or force them to swim.  The other peacocks became upset and were very worried about their home and happiness.  The peacocks decided to gather up feathers and sharpen them into arrows so that they could defend themselves against the swans.  The swans heard of their plans and become fearfully.  They too started gathering feathers to make arrows to defend themselves.  Both flocks continued to gather feathers but as they added more feathers they become more and more frightened and anxious.  One day a swan was flying over the peacocks garden with a reed in her beak to make a nest for her eggs, the peacocks saw this and mistook the reed for an arrow and the peacocks rushed down to the lake where the swans where.  The swans saw them coming and got ready to defend themselves. The two flocks fought each other and not one survived.  As the sun began to set two eggs hatched and out stumbled a baby peacock and a baby swan.  They walked over to each other and declared they were the same seeing as they has feathers, two legs, two eyes, and a head.  They decided right there to be friends and went off together unafraid.

Curriculum Connections
Feathers and Fools is written for grades K – 3.  However, the book has violent imagery that really isn’t suitable for younger elementary.  It illustrates a great message for an older audience about unsupported prejudices and rash judgments. For younger grades it would be used to show how friendship sees past small differences.  If the story was told without the violent language, it would be suitable to use to teach students about treating others with respect ( VA SOL K.8c, 1.10a) and also about being kind to others (VA SOL K.8a)

Additional Resources

  • This lesson plan focuses on how to be a good citizen.
  • This lesson plan focuses on sharing for lower elementary.
  • This website has several awards and certificates that can be used to promote being a good citizen in the classroom.

Book: Feathers and Fools
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Nicholas Wilton
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 36 pages
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-10:
0152004734