Stitchin' and Pullin': a Gee's Bend Quilt by Patricia c. McKissack. il Cozbi A. Cabrera.
Random House: NY, 2008.

Stitchin' and Pullin' is told through poems in the voice of a young girl whose turn has come to make her first quilt. She tells of the generations of the Gee's Bend quilters and of her experience of listening to the women's conversation and wisdom as she played beneath the quilting frame and later was put to work threading needles and cutting scraps. She tells of the scraps saved from old clothes with their memories attached and the symbolism of the pieces she chooses for her quilt. For example, family incidences and important historical moments or mentors. She tells what goes into the making of the quilt: colors; balance; meaning; hours of love, labor and fellowship. She also tells of the anticipation she feels waiting and hoping for the project to be finished.

Gee's Bend, Alabama is an African American community where quilting has been a tradition for centuries. Up until the Depression of the 1930s, their community was separate (a sharecropping community on an island in a river), their quilting not noticed. They started to receive attention, because the style of the quilting was different, not influenced by quilters of other communities. Nowadays, some of their old quilts hang in museums, and they sell quilts in the traditional style.

As a quilter myself, I am drawn to stories about quilts. They are, to me, an amazing art form, and so much of people's lives go into the creation of them.

The story is told in a comprehensive and loving way. It holds the awe that I feel regarding quilts and the complexity of the subject. Also included is a family history of the girl, struggles of the community, and the striving for justice and civil rights. I particularly like the choices of fabric and the girl's explanations for them. The illustrations are lovely. Of course, filled with quilt pictures but also family, community, and history. The illustrations are bright and impressionistic, incorporating the description of the girl's quilting choices.

This picture book is for an older than normal audience. It can be used for appreciation of art or civil rights and family history studies. Younger children will need to share it with an adult.

related-quilting, African Americans, family life, Gee's Bend, Alabama, community life
RL=2nd-5th, read aloud K-5th

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