by Nicky Singer (Author)
‘Norbert No-Brain’, Norbert No-Bottle’ - that’s what Niker, talented, goodlooking and a bully, calls Robert Nobel. But Robert, unusual in appearance and physically weak, can fly, or that’s what his ‘Elder’, Edith Sorrel, tells him. Mrs Sorrel is a resident of the local old people’s home with which Robert’s class joins in a project based around storytelling and memories.
The project represents a turning point in Robert’s life; while he may not be able to physically fly, he discovers that he can take off in other ways. Mrs Sorrel issues a challenge to him: to enter an abandoned house where something tragic happened many years ago, and by doing so to gain ‘the wisdom’ which she has promised him. Following his acceptance of her challenge, Robert’s greater ‘wisdom’, or understanding of himself and others, enables him to confront Niker, and to realise that he has abilities which enable him to do things which can make a difference to himself and to other people. Most of all, it enables him to gain a new perspective on the break-up of his parents’ marriage. As he comments in the last chapter, ‘I’d like to tell you that my parents got back together again and we all lived happily ever after.’ While that didn’t happen, Robert and his father develop a better relationship and achieve companionship, and perhaps love, through a shared interest in fishing.
In Feather Boy, Singer, an established novelist for adults, displays a sure touch. Robert’s inward journey is superimposed on a plot which contains plenty of action and interest. His explorations of the old house are truly scary, and his efforts to complete a task set for him by Mrs Sorrel create a piquant tension.
This is an eminently readable and wise novel for readers of 10+, and I’m sure readers will join me in hoping that Nicky Singer continues to give her writing attention to the market for younger readers.