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The Featherhood Book - Reviews

Rod Adams

Upon receipt of this book I deliberately relegated it to the bottom of a pile of three others that I had yet to read. A biography of Lord Collingwood, Tristram Hunt on the British Empire and a novel by Andrew Marr. Why so?

Well, in a word anthropomorphism, the attribution of human form or personality to animals and bird. This is something I just can't accept. The use of anthropomorphism is different when used in a novel but even then it is a difficult trick to pull off. In this book though, and I have to say this, it is little used, and moreover, it works.

So I was wrong. No bones about that. I should have read this book first. It was put to me that “The Featherhood “ might be a good read for kids or grandkids but it's far more than that. No doubt they would enjoy it but it's not just a book for kids, it's a book about kids, their relationships with each other and the adults in their lives and, best of all with their pigeons. I defy anyone of my unprivileged generation, who grew up with pigeons in their young lives and graduated to racing them thereafter, not to recognize and identify with the central characters in this novel.

Who amongst us, as embryo fanciers, didn't obtain their early stock via the local docks, pit yards and sundry derelict buildings, used nooses made from cobblers thread or baited propped-up boxes or dustbin lids with cheap corn? Who never paired racing strays with fantails or other breeds or took them on short bus trips in brown paper bags before eventually getting their hands on better birds and meeting experienced older fanciers who showed them the ropes.

The book is a grand, heart-warming story written by a man who understands pigeons, their ways and the ways of the people who keep them. It is apparent that the author is not your ordinary pigeon man, nor was he ever. I have never met Jim Jenner, though I once stood next to him at the Blackpool Show, but I know who he is and what he does, as do all thinking fanciers, and he is to be congratulated on this ostensively simple, yet multi-facetted book .

OK, so the ending may seem an implausible, happy ever after one, but think about this. Have you never dreamt of pulling off "the big one" with the only two birds on the day or something like that? And another thing, how many winners have seemingly been bred off unknown ancestry only for it to be discovered at a later date that, somewhere down the line, there was real first rate stock there?

Pigeons transformed my life and pigeon men were my de facto family for more years than I care to remember. The kept me sane and grounded in an uncertain world. At one time they were all that I had. I know where this book is coming from. Jim also demonstrates that all is not sweetness and light in the world of pigeons or in any other world for that matter, but it never was, was it?. This is a nice - no it’s better than nice - an extremely well-written book with plenty of humor in it. Pass it on to your kids by all means - after you have read it first. Savor the memories it will stir up in you. Our childhood is all too short and a way of life that I and many others enjoyed as children has all but gone. Oh, and did I mention Gloria? No, well look out for her!


Gareth Watkins
For those many thousands throughout the pigeon world who have enjoyed the superb body of work that Jim Jenner has produced in films will find Jim’s first foray into the literary world just as enjoyable and informative.

Jim takes the story of a world class long distance racing pigeon from Belgium and interweaves it as a result of fairly dramatic circumstances, with the social interaction of two unsuspecting teenage boys living in a port city on the west coast of America.

Along the way he lucidly describes the world as a pigeon sees it, whilst expertly avoiding the trap of attributing human like feelings to an animal. Some of these insights into the pigeon’s psyche amazed me, a fancier with 50 or more years of experience in the sport.

Jim also manages to depict the racing pigeon in a completely different light to that in which the general public view our beloved avian athletes. He describes the physical differences that exist between the racing pigeon and the common feral or street pigeon. He also expertly manages to enlighten the reader into the normal life cycle of the racing pigeon and throws light on the way in which racing pigeons find their way home and how they are conditioned and prepared in order to achieve these feats of endurance.

Those fanciers who have watched Jim’s earlier DVD’s will also have noted his keen interest in the way that involvement with racing pigeons by teenagers brought up in inner cities, where the temptation to become involved with petty crime is high, has enabled them to stay on the “straight and narrow”. This theme is emphasized within the pages of The Featherhood.

As someone who was brought up reading and doting on the works of Henry Williamson [ Tarka the Otter etc] and Jack London { “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”], I was apprehensive about reading any other animal based novels as I firmly believed that they would pale into insignificance by comparison.

I need not have worried, as Jim Jenner has produced a super novel that will appeal to fanciers and the general public alike.

Jim I congratulate you on an excellent piece of work. I should also say that my copy will be gifted to my grand son’s school library in the hope that it will encourage some youngsters who are at present non fanciers to join “The Featherhood”.
G. B. Peterson

“It’s a Beautiful Day in the Featherhood"
Once again, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Jim Jenner has done the pigeon fancy proud, but this time as a novelist. The Featherhood is a top-notch piece of modern fiction that all readers will enjoy, and a wonderfully special treat for us pigeon fanciers. Jenner’s extensive personal knowledge and understanding of pigeons and pigeon people make this intriguing tale as true to life as anything could be. Indeed, it’s a bit eerie how realistic this novel is in light of recent disturbing news from the international racing pigeon community about the mysterious theft of an extremely valuable bird in Germany.

Like all good novels, besides telling a gripping story, The Featherhood also conveys a meaningful message. Skillfully woven throughout the book are examples of the many complementary and oftenrandom forces at work in the parallel worlds and lives of both pigeons and people. These subtle and well-crafted analogies reveal that our respective life journeys really have much more in common than one might think. Predator/prey, injury/healing, despair/hope, loss/redemption, transgression/ forgiveness, defeat/triumph --- they’re all in there.

A major theme is the critical importance of perseverance, be it the perseverance of a homing pigeon in the face of foreign territory, punishing weather, physical exhaustion, or raptor attacks, or the perseverance of a human being, adolescent or adult, in the face of loss of a parent or spouse, inner-city impoverishment, street-gang bullies (or pigeon-club bullies!), or the temptations of trickery or crime.Never give up; tell the truth; do the right thing. The subplots are rich in the stuff of real life, and you can’t help but care about the characters.

This is an especially great book for pigeon fanciers, regardless of age or background. The story is infused with many of the finer details of pigeon breeding, training, and general loft management that novices will find instructive and that will make old hands knowingly smile and nod as they read. But the best part for us pigeon people is the central notion Jenner has captured in his clever term “The Featherhood”. It refers to the sense of belonging and the mutual affirmation and respect that comes from being part of this honorable, character-building pastime centered on raising and caring for pigeons. We can all identify with the various examples the story gives of how this featherhood of ours spans social class, income level, education background, age, gender, religion, race and nationality. Rich or poor within this global group we are all equals and totally at ease with one another in the context of our common passion. Differences recede far into the background as our brotherhood in pigeons, the featherhood, comes to the fore. This is something special and good, and we should take pride in it. Our turbulent world could definitely use more of this sort of thing.

This novel is for readers of all ages, but it may be found especially meaningful for younger readers; much of the story falls into the coming-of-age genre. Teachers and librarians among us in the featherhood may want to take note: there is ample grist here for deep discussion in book clubs or in classes of young adult readers. But even if you’re an old reader, if you caught feral pigeons as a kid, you are bound to recognize yourself somewhere in this story. Absorbing, exciting, and inspirational, you’re sure to love The Featherhood.
Finding fresh, engaging books for teens is difficult. As a librarian, I'm in a constant search for the next "perfect read:" witty yet serious, action-packed with a moral compass, classic and not coddling the reader. I found all this new novel happenstance donated to our library. By pure luck I discovered it resting on my desk as I sat down and settled into another day; I would have never heard of or otherwise had access to it due to its independent publishing. What drew me in was a picture of a bird, a pigeon, on the cover. I never thought of pigeons as domesticated pets, and certainly not compelling enough to be at the center of an entire novel. Boy was I wrong...

"The Featherhood" is a delightful, unique, and timely work of young adult fiction. I daresay it's a modern American classic. It's set in present (well, almost, 1990s) day in inner-city Tacoma, Washington, with tangible, believable characters. The most surprising and engaging character of all? A pigeon.

It incapsulates a quiet, yet strong, burning sense of duty, morality, and empathy without being preachy or patronizing to the reader. I could not help but see parallels to Huckleberry Finn. The book's main character and voice, 9-year-old Tyrone, is a black Huck Finn. For the contemporary reader, be it a Middle School student or a middle aged librarian, Tyrone's journey is more relatable and easier to read. Tyrone's sense of duty to right and wrong mirrors that of Finn's; he carries the same "if I go to hell, so be it" attitude, and sticks to his moral compass and empathy for a character (the pigeon), who is without a doubt one of the most unfairly reviled domestic animals out there. The plot turns dramatically from gangs in the streets, to pigeon racing, to struggle and glory of the book's main characters.

What I did not at first understand was how a pigeon could be so valuable. [SPOILERS] When the story unfolds, it's revealed that the pigeon Tyrone saves is a racing pigeon, a champion worth an exceptional amount of money. [SPOILERS] The pigeon racing illustrated in this novel is very similar to horse racing, all with huge prize money and serious competitors.

One thing the book does NOT do is coddle the young characters, or its reader. In an era where most young adult fiction stresses a hand holding of both the characters and readers, The Featherhood lets events unfold in a refreshingly realistic manner. Tyrone is not babied by his mother, older brother, or teachers; he is left to his own devices, and when situations turn to life and death, he learns to commit to his actions and follow through. As the plot comes to a finale, the book closes with an unpredictable but utterly satisfying series of scenes. Had to purchase as gifts! Cannot wait to see the movie!