Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds (Joy McCullough)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds, written by Joy McCullough and illustrated by Romina Galotta, the tale of a unique avian activist.

Harriet Lawrence Hemenway, a young socialite in 1890’s Boston, was a fan of lovely hats. She, like many other women of the time, was particularly drawn to those that featured the colorful plumage of birds. However, after reading a news article that detailed the millions of birds that died to make such hats, Harriet is shocked. Along with her cousin Minna, Harriet begins a social movement to boycott the use of feathers in fashion, eventually leading her to establish the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

Disappointing. While I’m all for a tale of early feminism and animal-rights activism, this one just never seems to find its balance between a heartfelt tale of fighting for social change and a comedy absolutely littered with bird-related puns. These puns undercut Harriet’s passion for birds’ rights, as do the lack of emphasis on any struggles she may have faced to raise awareness and change laws. With little to no adversity, the story reads very much as “rich, upperclass woman picks up a cause on a whim, decides to change things, then does without issue,” which was very much not the case. This is not helped by the noticeable lack of diversity in crowd and party scenes, which feature only one or two token characters of color throughout and very little diversity beyond that. Galotta’s avian illustrations are quite beautiful, and her characters are expressive, though her command of period fashions is the true standout (yet, a bit to the book’s disadvantage – the artwork almost glories in the loveliness of the feathered hats and fashions). The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed the bird artwork, but overall this one just sort of fell flat with us. Not our cup of tea.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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