Illustration by Erika Cosby, from 'Friends of a Feather', © 2003 William H. Cosby Jr.
Cosby's book is illustrated by his daughter, Erika.
From his hit television sitcoms to Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoons, children have played a major role in Bill Cosby's career. In his latest project, Cosby has written Friends of a Feather, a book he hopes will appeal as much to adults as to their kids.
As he tells NPR's Bob Edwards on Morning Edition, Friends of a Feather deals with some complex themes, including loss and pain. Cosby says it's not a book to be read by a child, but one that should be read to a child.
"Children will not have the knowledge to be able to get the depth of what's there. I am hoping to reinforce the role of the parent over the mysterious unknown people that a child may want to perform for, and I don't mean as an entertainer."
The book tells the story of three birds — Slipper, Feathers and Hog — who perform aerial acrobatics that amaze and entertain crowds of people who gather on the beach. Cosby got the idea for the story after watching pelicans fishing along the coast of the Virgin Islands the year his son died.
The 27-year-old Ennis Cosby was shot and killed while changing a flat tire. Bill Cosby was looking for a way to remember his son. When he saw the birds soaring over the beaches, he was inspired to write a book about love, friendship and loss.
Cosby asked his oldest daughter, Erika, an accomplished painter, to illustrate Friends of a Feather. One of the birds, Feathers, has an unusual red symbol on its chest. "Dad said he wanted it to look as though, in an abstract sense, there was a smile or a face on the chest," Erika Cosby says.
Bill Cosby explains: "The smile is my son's smile. Feathers is not really Ennis. The smile is Ennis's because he greeted people with two words, 'Hello, friend.' And you can only think of a smile."