Friday, February 20, 2009


MOST LOVED IN ALL THE WORLD by Tonya Cherie Hegamin, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera (Houghton Mifflin)
A log cabin. A star. A tree with moss growing on one side of it. A little girl, smiling, the most loved in all the world. These are the special patches being embroidered by Mama, putting together a quilt. This special work is not for the Big House or to sell, but as a gift and a map for her precious daughter whom she will trust to others to lead to freedom. In very few words, the author captures the unspeakably wrenching nature of family separations during slavery, and the unfathomable depth of a mother's love. Heavily laid acrylics and textile collage give the sense of the weight of the world, the cover of night, and the warmth of blanket; the folksy painting style combined with bright cloth collage are beautifully juxtaposed. A very thoughtful author's note is included to parents and educators, explaining how so dire were the circumstances, many families sent children North on the Underground Railroad without them, "regardless of overwhelming feelings of loss...and without even a shred of seeing their loved ones again. Their only hope was freedom itself." It also touches on the many cases of brave people who returned to slavery or stayed behind to help others become emancipated, as depicted by the little girl's mother. In the context of terrible sadness, hope still sparks like light from a flint. This book is an opportunity to reflect on the great bravery and sacrifice of these Americans, and what we love most in the world: our families, and our freedoms. Readers who were moved by Jacqueline Woodson's and Hudson Talbott's award-winning rendering of a quilt's depth of meaning through history in SHOW WAY will appreciate this new and equally powerful picture book read-aloud. Also check out the illustrator's other recent offering, STITCHIN' AND PULLIN': A GEE'S BEND QUILT, a celebration of family tradition neatly sewn together with the poetic language of Patricia McKissack (Random House).

Also of interest:
MOMMA, WHERE ARE YOU FROM? by Marie Bradby, illustrated by Chris Soentipet (Orchard)

"Momma, where are you from?"
"I'm from Monday mornings, washing clothes in the wringer washer..."

A smooth melding of nostalgic and contemporary feeling flows in the cozy remembrances of a mother growing up in the mid-20th century. Serious topics like segragation and inequality are touched upon, as well as cheery, timeless experiences like playing neighborhood games, walking down a summery country road, buying ice from a cart or being in the warm circle of family and community in the midst of a fish-fry. Every child wonders what life was like when a parent was growing up, and this book is a lovely springboard into a conversation between young and old. Warm text is matched by unusually gorgeous realistic illustrations that seem to glow with a joy of feeling.

"Momma, can I go there?"
"Yes. We can travel through roads in my memory."

Thanks to bookloving friends at Bees Knees Reads for introducing me to this wonderful title!

Shop with Esme
One of the great regrets of my craft life is that I never really learned to sew on a machine (yet), so as a teacher I looked upon the amazing quilt projects done in other classrooms with admiration and envy. Then I discovered The Ultimate Quilt Painting!

Tah-dahhhh! Finally, a quilt that requires no sewing! It's put together with canvas instead of cloth. At first I thought it might be a little pricey, but the supplies it comes with are high-quality, and it had everything necessary to start and finish with a whole classroom full of children to great effect. Sorry to sound like a commercial, but I am very pleased to find a group craft project that really is a keepsake. I was inspired by the themes you can do with the kit, like the one of African masks done by a third grade class in the gallery. Developed by an art teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, some of her classes' finished work was auctioned off to provide relief for tsunami and hurricane victims, and the end product you can create with a class is desirable for school auctions as well. I even bought one and included the blank canvas squares in invitations to a wedding shower. When guests came they brought the decorated squares and I assembled them during the shower, so the bride-to-be had a frameable "quilt" to take home at the end of the party!

Have fun, and send me a pic if you make one!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
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carey said...

it's all quilts, all the time in my classroom this month--thanks for all of the book recommendations!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for recommending nice books. I love it.


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