A Jar Full of Angel Feathers is written for fluent readers of 9 years of age upwards, and tells the story of seven-year-old Alex. Alex is angry and miserable. He has lost his mum, his dad has packed him off to live in Cornwall with Great Aunt Mary for a year, and his most treasured possession has vanished. He hates the countryside after the noise and bustle of London, and there’s the Gnarly Man in Tappers Wood to worry about. Can the down-to-earth love of Aunt Mary, the friendship of a mysterious young girl, and a little bit of magic help Alex to turn his life around?
An ancient tree, the Gnarly Man, features in the story. I love trees! Whether they’re dressed in their summer finery, or completely bare in winter and silhouetted against a pastel hued sky, I can’t get enough of them. Did you know that they are the lungs of the world? Our lungs take in air, absorb the oxygen into the bloodstream, and release waste gas carbon dioxide back out again. Trees act in much the same way, by absorbing waste gasses through tiny ‘windows’ called stomata in their green leaves, and releasing oxygen back into the air. If you look at a bare tree in winter, it looks very much like the branching pathways in our lungs. How amazing is that!
As the biggest plants on the planet, trees give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world's wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter.
“A charming children's story with a bit more going on than usual" Oct 2017
A Jar Full of Angel Feathers is a charming reminder of classic stories that I read in my own childhood. It has the pastoral themes and period settings of books like The Children of Green Knowe and The Railway Children, while managing to be completely of its own style. It would be a perfect fit for anyone looking for a children's story with a bit more going on than usual.
“A delight from start to finish!” September 2017
As someone who grew up in the 1950s this book reminded me so much of that time of my life. Freedom to roam being one thing and sadness when losing a loved one being another! This book tells a wonderful story of young Alex whose mother has died and whose father is so overcome with grief at his loss decides to send Alex to stay with Aunt Mary in Cornwall a very different way of life altogether from his life in London - this was the best thing that could have happened to Alex although he didn't realise it at the time! The wood with the local legend of the 'Gnarly Man', scare Alex initially but when he meets Flora his outlook on life changes totally, he becomes a carefree young boy and his grief starts to heal. I especially loved the part about the school and how the day went for the children with their bottles of milk with a straw, memories are lovely sometimes and this to me was one of mine! I can still smell the plasticine that I remember so well from school at that age and drinking milk in break time.
I started reading the book at bedtime and the second night I just had to stay awake until I finished it.
“A Wonderful and Moving Tale.” September 2017
Once I started to read this book I quite simply wanted to carry on and read right through to the end. I was captivated by the story of a young boy caught up in the turmoil induced by the loss of his Mum and the sibling he would never get to grow up with. This leading in turn to the huge upheaval of moving to unfamiliar surroundings and a growing fear of also losing his Dad. The story of how Alex begins to come to terms with his grief, helped along by the healing unconditional love from Great Aunt Mary and the development of an unexpected friendship with Flora unfolds gently at first. It builds into an intriguing and powerful tale with magical and spiritual threads running throughout. I think it would be a wonderful book for reading aloud at bedtime...each chapter building the suspense with the story culminating in a wonderful surprise at the end. I loved it not least for the memories of childhood evoked for myself, but also for the chance to share these with my grandchildren. I can't wait to read this to my 7 year old granddaughter.
Beautifully written with a real insight into the feelings of a young boy coping with a myriad of emotions, Susan offers a window of opportunity to explore some difficult subjects in a sensitive manner. The illustrations throughout truly enhance the whole story.
“Really delightful” September 2017
A quite charming, beautifully crafted tale of childhood in a more innocent time of long ago. It tackles 'difficult' subjects such as loss, fear of the unfamiliar and anger but nevertheless has that essential quality of all good books: strong page turn-ability. It should certainly appeal to children aged around eight to ten years (particularly girls, I would suspect) with its strong story line blended with a touch of magic, fantasy and creepiness. I bet you don't see the ending coming!
Being set in the 1950s, which is an extra dimension of interest in itself, I think it would appeal to nostalgic grandparents too, especially those who, like me, were brought up in the country. It gets positively Cider With Rosie in places, with its evocation of things like the village school and, oh yes, fond memories of minuscule bottles of milk provide by a paternalistic post-war government.
The author's illustrations are delightful too. All in all, this is a very commendable debut novel and I hope it does well.
“Superb and gripping story!” 25 August 2017
A Jar Full of Angel Feathers is a superb book set in the mid-fifties era which gives it that extra charm showing children as they used to be, before modern technology such as mobile phones and video games and when children played out doors and had adventures.
The story focuses around Alex,(7yrs old) whose mother and unborn sibling have died leaving an emptiness in his life. His father takes a job in Sheffield and packs him off to stay for one year with his Aunt Mary in Cornwall. Alex is not used to the countryside after living in busy London. He soon makes friends with Flora and she teaches him a few lessons that lead to life learning experiences along the way. I don't want to give too much of the story away, but this book shows and helps children how to come to terms with losing a loved one.
There are superb illustrations within the story and it is an interesting and entertaining read. A real page turner and a five star book without doubt! Well done Susan Russell for producing such a great debut novel!
“Beautiful, poignant and important” 1 September 2017
I started this book this morning, while sat in a sunny garden, overlooked by trees, with the hum of bees and the business of birds around me. What a perfect setting for this delightful children's story which takes us back to the innocence and wonder of childhood and the importance and magic of nature. Set in the 1950's, this story introduces us to 7-year-old Alex, a little boy whose life has been turned upside down by the recent death of his mother and unborn sibling. Struggling to cope, his father sends him to live with his Aunt Mary in Cornwall for a year. At first, Alex is hostile towards his new surroundings and alarmed by the vastness of the countryside. He soon begins to settle into his new life, however, due to the simple kindness of his Aunt, the friendliness of the small village, and the secrets to be discovered in Tappers Woods. The woods and the local legend of the 'Gnarly Man', scare Alex initially, but one day he meets a young girl called Flora, who becomes his closest friend. Together, they explore the woods, catching tadpoles, watching deer, learning about the seasons, about growth and change and new life. Flora is fascinated by the natural world and this soon rubs off on young Alex. I won't spoil the ending, but as the truth about Flora and the Gnarly Man are revealed, I felt myself choking back tears. I finished this book two hours later, still sat under the trees in the garden, and I immediately felt the strongest urge to push it into my 10-year-olds son's hands and order him to read it. I truly hope he gets as much from it as I did. Beautiful, poignant and important, I recommend this to readers both young and old.
“A charming debut novel “ 24 August 2017
A Jar Full of Angel Feathers is a charming debut novel - set in the mid-fifties - and is delightfully illustrated throughout by the author.
The story centres around seven-year-old Alex, whose mother and unborn sibling have recently died. His father accepts a job in Sheffield, but is unable to take Alex with him, arranging instead for Alex to stay for one year with his Great Aunt Mary in the Cornish countryside - a countryside Alex is unfamiliar with as he was brought up in the noisy city of London.
Alex discovers a new world and new friends – in particular a special friend, Flora. Over time, with Aunt Mary’s unlimited patience and understanding, and Alex’s special friendship with Flora, he settles into country life and learns a few valuable lessons along the way.
This is a lovely story in its own right, and a great book for helping children come to terms with the loss of a parent or other family member.
“...a great book for story-telling sessions” February, 2018
There is no one to organize their day; no one to keep them in order after Alex loses his mum. His father wants to start afresh by making big changes in their lives in A Jar Full Of Angel Feathers by Susan Russell. Alex’s dad decides to send him off to Cornwall, to Mallow Cottage with Aunt Mary, but Alex is unhappy with the decision of moving to the countryside. Alex loses his grey Dinky car and he thinks Aunt Mary has thrown it away. It is a beautiful story about friendship, family, acceptance, change, grief, healing, and magic. Will Alex finally make friends at the new place? Will Alex adjust to life in the countryside?
The story is relatable and all the characters are nicely sketched. Whether it is Aunt Mary, the Gnarly Man who is the guardian of the woods and fields, or the young girl, Flora, Alex begins to see life with a different perspective. The messages in the story are woven into the plot with expertise and the author paints a beautiful picture of the English countryside. The story will instill a love for nature as young readers get to explore the woods, learn about seasons, and many other interesting things along with Flora and Alex.
The narration is simple yet detailed, making the scenes vivid for readers. There is an element of magic and whimsy that will captivate readers and will make this a great book for story-telling sessions in classrooms and school libraries. Parents and grandparents can use it as a bedtime storybook and will find it useful when it comes to helping children understand about life, loss, sorrow, and how to accept this and come to terms with things.
Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite.com