November 4 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Bridges can do so much more than just take vehicles and people over waterways or highways. Many are beautiful structures that enhance the skyline or environment in which they’re found. Covered bridges, stone bridges, and soaring steel and cable bridges all inspire awe in their own way. Unfortunately, many older bridges are slated for destruction or replacement. To honor this month’s holiday, visit a historic bridge in your area or research famous bridges of the past and present.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Tucker Nichols

 

“In the beginning there was a bridge.” Well, to back up a bit there was a bay that led to the Pacific Ocean. The opening between the two shores that enclosed the bay was called the Golden Gate. “On one side of the Golden Gate was the Presidio, a military base at the top of the city of San Francisco. On the other side there were only hills, green and yellow, rising high above the sea.” Beyond these hills towns dotted the coastline.

People traveled between these shores by boat or by driving way out of their way. Many times people had thought about building a bridge across the bay, but they were afraid it would ruin the beauty of the land. At last it was decided that a bridge should be built. The year was 1928 and Joseph Strauss, an expert on bridges, was hired to design it. What he came up with looked more like the skeleton of a roller coaster, and while it would be strong, it would also be ugly.

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

People agreed that for such a beautiful spot, a beautiful bridge was needed. Joseph Strauss then asked for help in developing a plan for the bridge. Leon Moisseiff, known for designing the Manhattan Bridge in New York, came on board. Leon’s idea was for “a suspension bridge, one with swooping lines and tall towers.” The drawings were light and airy and…beautiful. People liked it very much.

“But still the bridge appeared a bit stern in style. So Joseph and Leon asked another person, named Irving Morrow, to help out.” Irving and his wife Gertrude had a different idea about what the bridge could be. With vertical fluting, “art deco flourishes,” pedestrian walkways, and curved lamps lighting the way, “the bridge could be both a bridge and something like art.”

Steelworkers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey built the pieces of the bridge. They were shipped to California by train and by boat. Finally, it was time to construct the bridge. Men had to dive deep into the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean and climb high into the sky while constructing it. It was estimated that it would take 4 years and thousands of workers to finish it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-irving-morrow

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

First the tall towers were constructed. The day they were finished was one of “jubilation” and awe as“sometimes the things humans make baffle even the humans who make them. One aspect of the bridge that had not been decided was the color, and many people had opinions on that. “The Navy thought it should be yellow and black so that ships and planes could easily see it.”

“The Army wanted it to look like a candy cane for the same reason the Navy wanted it to look like a tiger with jaundice: so that it would be easily seen by planes and ships.” Most people, though, thought the bridge should be painted black, white, or gray like most other monuments, towers, and buildings. Right now, the bridge was orange—coated with a special anti-rust paint. As Irving Morrow watched the bridge go up, he thought this orange was a beautiful color.

He suggested that the bridge be allowed to stay this color. Others thought he was “nuts.” Never had there been an orange bridge before, “and for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.” But the people of San Francisco began to see things Irving’s way. Still, gray seemed to be the safe choice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-people-talking

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

Irving, who was usually a shy and quiet sort, began to get vocal about his color preference as the completion date of the bridge came closer. Other’s began to echo his thoughts and arguments. “This bridge will not be gray!” they said. At last “the powers that be” agreed with Irving. The bridge remained orange: International Orange, in fact.

But because the wind, rain, and sun are harsh on the orange bridge, it needs to be repainted every year. Every day some part of it is being painted by dedicated workers. Is that crazy? Maybe, “But people love to paint it, and people love to look at it. The Golden Gate Bridge, which is orange, is the best-known and best-loved bridge in the world” because it is “bold and courageous and unusual and even strange.”

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

San Francisco resident Dave Eggers has written a loving tribute not only about the very distinctive Golden Gate Bridge but to the equally distinctive, quirky, and even courageous Irving Morrow, other architects, and people of the Bay area who saw and championed art where others may only have seen function. Passages of straightforward narration are joined by rivets of whimsically inserted dialogue, soaring description, and moving insight to construct a lyrical story of vision and inspiration that both kids and adults will find fascinating.  

Tucker Nichols’ paper cut illustrations are as playful and full of imagination as a kindergarten classroom. Using simple shapes and a gorgeous palette Nichols crafts portraits, collages, and landscapes that are movingly effective in depicting the San Francisco Bay area, the rising Golden Gate Bridge, and the personalities involved in this fun history of a beloved monument.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is a must for school and public libraries, a wonderfully inspiring addition to children’s bookshelves, and a colorful coffee table book for any home.

Ages 4 – 10 and up

McSweeney’s, 2015 | ISBN 978-1940450476

Click here to learn more about Tucker Nichols and his work.

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-golden-gate-bridge-coloring-page

Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page

 

Get out your markers, colored pencils, or crayons and color this printable Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

July 7 – Tell the Truth Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday envisions a day when there is no dishonesty or deception of any kind and encourages people to clear the air if there are hard feelings or to tell truths, even if they’re hard. If there is an honest statement you need to say, today may be the perfect opportunity to discuss it.

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective

Written by Marissa Moss | Illustrated by April Chu

 

As Kate read the newspaper advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency for the third time, she knew that this was the job for her. It said: “Wanted: Detective. Must be observant, determined, fearless, and willing to travel.” But in 1856 no one would hire a single woman, so Kate decided to present herself as a widow.

Kate had been raised by her father, a printer. Books had always been her companions, and she knew how to make up a story—even the story of her life. “So Kate Carter became Kate Warne…exactly the kind of person you’d want to hire as a detective.” As soon as she walked through the door, Allan Pinkerton began writing down his impressions of Kate. He thought she was a client seeking help. From her manner and appearance, he knew he would take her case—whatever it was.

But when Kate told him she was applying for a job, he told her he “had no need for a washerwoman or cook.” Kate told him she was there to apply for the detective position. Pinkerton had reservations. The dangerous work was “not at all the sort of thing a woman could do,” he said. But Kate disagreed. She told him that she would be able to go into places his male detectives could not and could be the confidant of women witnesses. Pinkerton told her he would think it over.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

The next day Kate was at the office as soon as it opened. “Today, you’ve made some history,” Pinkerton told her, “You’re now the first woman detective in the country.” He handed her a file marked The Adams Express Case. As she read the case, Kate felt a thrill of excitement. “The Adams Express Company transported money and valuables for businesses all over the South, by rail, steamboat, and stagecoach.” Valuables were well protected by locks that couldn’t be picked.

But $40,000 had disappeared. One suspect stood out from the rest—Nathan Maroney, the manager of the Montgomery office where the packages had come from. He had been the last person to lock up the carrying pouch before the messenger, Mr. Chase, transported it to Atlanta, where it was found to be empty. Maroney was arrested, but there was little hard evidence—only a slit in the pouch that had not been there before Maroney was accused.

Kate considered the problem then remembered the sleight of hand tricks huskers used to fool people. She figured out how Maroney had stolen the money, but they needed more evidence and a confession. While a male agent pretended to be a fellow thief named “John White” in the same jail cell as Maroney, Kate befriended Maroney’s wife, Belle, pretending to be Madame Imbert. While Belle didn’t confess to the theft, she did ask her new friend for advice on where to hide valuables. Kate told her she hid her valuables in the basement or buried them in the garden.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

When Belle left town to visit her husband in jail, Kate took the opportunity to do some snooping at her house. Just as Kate found a freshly dug mound behind crates and barrels in the basement, she heard Belle returning home. She hurriedly put everything back in place and rushed upstairs. Belle was suspicious of the dust on Kate’s dress, and Kate knew she and the other agents had to act fast. She alerted another agent who crawled through the basement window while Belle slept. He tidied up the basement, and the next morning when Belle checked her hiding place, everything was in order. She could still trust her friend she thought.

The Pinkerton Agency plan was going like clockwork. Inside the jail cell, Maroney put his faith—and his money—in the detective’s hands. Maroney wrote to Belle, telling her that John White was going to help them. He instructed her to give John White all the money he had stolen. White was going to plant some of it on Mr. Chase, use some of it to bribe a judge to find Maroney not guilty at trial, and keep the rest for Maroney to collect later. At first, Belle didn’t trust John White, but one sentence from her friend “Madame Imbert” eased her mind and she went along with her husband’s plan.

As the ingenious plan was hatched and carried out, Kate made sure that all the money was secure. The money made its way to the Pinkerton agent “Mr. White” with Belle and Maroney none the wiser. As Maroney’s trial proceeded, and he heard Mr. White called as the first witness, Maroney suddenly changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.” “The reputation of the Pinkerton agency was made. So was Kate Warne’s.”

Kate became one of the agency’s most valuable detectives. She was even put in charge of a women’s division and hired many more women who became “some of Pinkerton’s strongest agents.” But Kate Warne, the first woman detective in America, would always be considered the best.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

An Author’s Note explaining more about the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the first woman detective follow the text.

Children who love mysteries will be enthralled with this true tale of the first woman detective in America and her explosive first assignment. Marissa Moss’s suspenseful, compelling storytelling and excellent pacing reveal the facts of the case, Kate’s insightful reasoning, and the clever ruses the agents used in outsmarting and capturing the thief. Moss infuses the story with the feeling of the time period and a sense of pride in this little-known piece of women’s history.

April Chu’s detailed period drawings take kids to the mid-1800s to follow Kate Warne as she solves her first case. Depictions of Kate’s father’s printing press, the dirt roads traversed by horse-drawn wagons and carriages, the Adams Express locked pouches and secure rail car will excite history and mystery buffs. The full cast of characters are clearly portrayed, allowing young readers to become detectives themselves as they see the action through Kate’s eyes. The dramatic finale to the case will have children on the edge of their seats whether they are hearing the story aloud or reading it themselves.

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective is a thrilling picture book introduction to both biographies and mysteries for children. It offers a unique look at the contributions of strong women in history and is an excellent selection for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 13

Creston Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939547330

Visit with Marissa Moss on her website to discover more about her, her books, and loads of fun activities!

View a gallery of artwork by April Chu on her website!

Tell the Truth Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mysterious-mystery-word-search

Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress voted for Independence from Great Britain. Two days later delegates from the 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document penned by Thomas Jefferson asserting the equal rights of all and establishing a democratic government. It went on to name the America’s grievances against Great Britain and to create from the colonies the United States of America. Independence Day was made a federal holiday in 1941. The day is celebrated with official ceremonies, parades, picnics, and fireworks displays.

The Night Before the Fourth of July

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Amy Wummer

 

The Fourth of July is tomorrow, and one family is getting ready! While Dad hangs the American Flag on the front porch, Mom is decorating the fence with red, white, and blue bunting. While they sleep, the brother and sister dream about fireworks. The next day every one dresses up in patriotic stripes and stars to attend the town parade, complete with “marching bands and 4-H club goats.” Even the Mayor joined in the fun, tossing candy to the crowds from a convertible car, while “an Uncle Sam walking on stilts brought up the rear.”

After the parade friends and family came to the house for a barbeque, but as Dad flipped burgers and the table was laid with summer treats, gray clouds threatened overhead. Just as everyone “sat down it started to pour. ‘Grab the food!’ shouted Mom and [they] raced through the door. In hot dogs! In salads! In blueberry pie! In melon and corn! Keep those potato chips dry!”

Everyone piled into the kitchen and continued to munch. But what about the fireworks? They watched out the window at the rain pouring down. A Fourth of July without rockets and sparkle and light just wouldn’t be the same. But there was no need to worry. After the storm burst, the clouds went away and the sky turned blue.

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Image copyright Amy Wummer, text copyright Natasha Wing. Courtesy of Grosset & Dunlap

As dusk approached they all drove to the park. Dad lit the sparklers and set the glow sticks alight. Soon, “the first firework was launched high into the night. It bloomed like a flower exploding with light.” People oohed and ahhhed, but for some little ears the booms were too loud. Then the band played the national anthem and Dad sang along, even if he was “way out of key.”

As the last notes faded into the air, it was time for the finale – a spectacular display of color and wonder. “When the last firework fizzled like fairy dust in the sky, [they] all cheered and shouted, “Happy Fourth of July!”

Part of Natasha Wing’s “The Night Before” series, this summer holiday book offers young readers all the excitement and fun of the Fourth of July from community events to family picnics to, of course, the fireworks that wrap up this patriotic celebration with flair. While maintaining some of the cadence of its Christmas cousin, The Night Before the Fourth of July is jauntily unique. Young readers will be captivated by the story’s joyous preparations and “Uh-oh! What now?” moment and will enthusiastically look forward to their own family traditions.

Amy Wummer’s engaging illustrations invite kids into a big family Fourth of July celebration with all the red, white, and blue decorations and glitzy fireworks. All young readers’ favorite parts of the holiday are here and warmly depicted as the family raises their flag, enjoys the flavor of summer delights, and joins the rest of the town at the annual fireworks show.

The Night Before the Fourth of July is a great book to keep on the shelf for the holiday itself (it makes a great take along to that wait for the sky to turn dark) and for other family story times.

Ages 3 – 5

Grosset & Dunlop, 2015 | ISBN 978-0448487120

Independence Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fourth-of-july-coloring-page-2017

Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page

 

The fireworks display is one of the best parts of the Fourth of July. You can make this printable Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page as sparkly as the real thing by outlining the bursts with a sprinkling of red, white, and blue glitter! Just grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers plus some glue and glitter and have fun!

Picture Book Review

May 31 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

As we say goodbye to Get Caught Reading Month, let’s remember all of the great stories we’ve read and eagerly anticipate those that still await us in the days and months ahead! The long, relaxing hours of summer vacation are nearing, giving readers even more time to enjoy their favorite pursuit. So why not make a list of titles you’d like to explore this summer, and lead it off with today’s book that tells the true story of a very original teenager!

The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Suzanne Beaky

 

Unlike most girls in the 1890s, Lucille didn’t skip rope “with her mama’s clothesline, she twirled it like a lasso. Whoosh…whoosh…snap!” While Lucille’s papa thought his daughter would be a great help around the ranch, her mother considered riding horses and roping steers unladylike. Lucille wasn’t interested in the regular pursuits of becoming a lady, however. Sewing and cooking were boring, and “riding sidesaddle was slower than a snail climbing a greased log.”

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

By the age of ten, Lucille was well versed in “mending fences, training racehorses, and herding cattle.” When she asked her father for her own herd of cattle, he told her that she could have one when she was old enough to rope and brand her own—something she could already do. Lucille’s mother worried about her when she patrolled the pastures where her cows grazed. They were threatened by “longhorns, wolves, and coyotes so mean they could turn the strongest cowboy into buzzard food,” but Lucille could snatch those varmints with her lasso in no time flat. The only thing Lucille was afraid of was not being allowed to work on the ranch, so she hid her bumps and bruises.

When Lucille was thirteen, her papa took her along on some rough-riding and roping competitions he had organized. When people saw how talented she was, word got around. Newspapers called her a “daring young girl who ‘held the audience in a breathless spell’” and said she was “‘the envy of half the men.’” But now that she was a teenager, Lucille’s mama sent her to a boarding school where she was to learn how to be a lady.

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of albertwhitman.com

When she returned home at the end of the year, her papa presented her with a gift—a “beautiful sixteen-hand chestnut horse named Governor. Right off, Lucille could see that he would make a perfect trick horse. That summer Lucille, her papa, and the other cowboys were invited to perform for Vice Presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt. At first Lucille’s mother said no, but she later relented, with the stipulation that “it would be Lucille’s last appearance.”

Lucille was a star, demonstrating her riding and roping skills for 25,000 people. Teddy Roosevelt was so impressed, he suggested Lucille have her own show. Soon, Lucille was traveling around the country, thrilling audiences by breaking broncos, lassoing and branding steers, and performing tricks like roping “five galloping cowboys all at once.”

Lucille entered her first professional steer-roping competition when she was just fifteen. She was the first women ever to compete in this kind of event. Some cowboys laughed at her, but she didn’t care. When the steer was released from the pen, Lucille took off after him. Her first throw of the lasso landed but broke. Quickly she tossed another and “flipped him up like a flapjack.” She jumped off her horse and in 29 ½ seconds tied the steer’s feet. Her time was “faster than all the men!”

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

Lucille went on to break the world record for steer roping. Plenty of people still thought Lucille belonged in the home instead of on horseback. “But her home was always on a horse with the sun on her cheeks a lariat coiled in her hand, and the boundless Oklahoma prairie rolling out in front of her.”

More information on and a timeline of Lucille Mulhall’s life follow the text.

With her folksy storytelling, Heather Lang transports readers to the prairies of the Wild West, where a girl with phenomenal riding skills captured the attention and hearts of Americans. Young readers will be fascinated by Lucille Mulhall’s development from a 10-year-old prodigy to the star of her own stage show in only a few short years. Lang’s expressive period-perfect vocabulary allows all kids to ride the range while they learn about this young woman who broke stereotypes, championed the cause of women, and still serves as a role model for all who wish to live life on their own terms.

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

With her downhome, action-packed illustrations, Suzanne Beaky lets kids watch as Lucille lassos a wolf, ropes a steer, preforms tricks, and celebrates her record-breaking performance. Lucille is a wide-eyed force of nature in her split skirt and braids as she twirls her rope for serious ranch business and for entertaining the crowds, whose stunned expressions reveal just how original Lucille was. Clothing, hair, and mustache styles, as well as depictions of horses, steers, and the vast green prairie make The Original Cowgirl as fun as it is informative.

For kids interested in the Wild West, early American history, biographies, or a story about true individuality, The Original Cowgirl: the Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall is a great addition to home bookshelves and public and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman, 2015 | ISBN 978-0807529317

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website!

To find out more about Lucille Mulhall through videos, photographs, and fun activities, click here!

Learn more about Suzanne Beaky and view a gallery of her artwork on her website!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Yee-haw-word-search

Yee-haw! Word Search

 

Can you lasso the eighteen Wild West-inspired words in this printable Yee-haw! Word Search? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 21 – “I Need A Patch for That” Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated annually on May 21, “I Need a Patch for That” Day gives a little love to patches of all kinds. Have you been out working in your garden patch? Fabulous! Did you just finish all the requirements for a scouting patch? Good job! Waiting on a fix for the latest software kerfuffle? Who isn’t? Are you a pirate keeping one eye ready for the dark? Argghh! Do you need to patch up a misunderstanding? Good luck! Or maybe you’re a quilter like the amazing women in today’s book who create a patch to remember each of life’s important, inspirational, and formative events. 

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

Written by Patricia C. McKissack | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 

In this story told through poems, a little girl begins telling readers about her life, starting with a recitation on Gee’s Bend Women: “Gee’s Bend women are / Mothers and Grandmothers / Wives / Sisters and Daughters / Widows.” They are every kind of woman you know, doing every type of work and activity. “Gee’s Bend women are / Talented and Creative / Capable / Makers of artful quilts / Unmatched. / Gee’s Bend women are / Relatives / Neighbors / Friends— / Same as me.”

In Who Would Have Thought, the girl muses on how perceptions change. “For as long as anyone can remember,” she says, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created quilts that were slept under, sat on, and wrapped around the sick or cold. But now those same quilts are “…hanging on museum walls, / their makers famous….”

When she was just a tot “Baby Girl” reveals in Beneath the Quilting Frame, she played under the quilting frame, listening to her “mama, grandma, and great-gran / as they sewed, talked, sang, and laughed / above my tented playground.” She remembers the “steady fingers  /[that] pieced together colorful scraps of familiar cloth / into something / more lovely / than anything they had been before” as her mother sang her a lullaby.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Something Else, “Baby Girl” is growing too big to play underneath the frame. Her legs are becoming longer and her mind is full of “recipes for eleven kinds of jelly…how to get rid of mold…and the words to a hundred hymns and gospel songs” while she waits for her turn at the frame. At last, her time does come, and in Where to Start?, the girl asks her mama how to begin. Her mother answers, “‘Look for the heart. / When you find the heart, / your work will leap to life… / strong, beautiful, and… / independent.’”

In Remembering, the girl thinks about how her mama has told her that “cloth has a memory.” As she chooses the cloth that will become her quilt she recounts the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch. Suddenly, the girl knows that this cloth will become the patch that “will be the heart of my quilt.” In Puzzling the Pieces the girl and her grandma stand over the quilting frame fitting the squares together in the perfect way to tell the girl’s story. Her quilt comes together piece by piece to tell the history of Gee’s Bend in The River Island. The brown strips along three sides mirror the muddy waters surrounding her town. The fourth side is a green strip—“a symbol of the fields where my ancestors / worked cotton from can to can’t— / can see in the morning until / can’t see at night.” Lined up next to the green strip are six squares representing the small communities “where families with / the same name / are not kin by blood / but by plantation.”

Being Discovered is portrayed with “a large smoke-gray square”—the color of the Great Depression and the 15 minutes of fame Gee’s Bend garnered when discovered “by sociologists, historians, / educators, and journalists” who came and went, leaving Gee’s Bend “the way it had been / before being discovered.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Colors, the girl’s grandma explains the meanings and feelings behind each colored cloth. “Blue cools. / Red is loud and hard to control, / like fire and a gossiping tongue.” Green, orange, yellow, white, pink, and all the others have their own personalities. “Grandma says, / ‘Colors show how you / feel deep down inside.’”

In Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds “a spotless white patch for the hope Dr. Martin Luther King / brought to the Bend” and goes on to tell how her grandma saw Dr. King at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and what it meant to her. By and By follows the girl as she adds “golden thank-yous, for James Reeb,” a “bright blue piece of velvet for Viola Liuzzo,” and a “big plaid people circle of white, black, brown, yellow, and red for Reverend Dr. King, all “killed for believing in justice.”

In the 1960s, The Sewing Bee tells, Gee’s Bend quilters were once again discovered. Joining the Bee provided buyers for the handmade quilts, but there were stipulations on the types of quilts that could be made and sold. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘more money. Less freedom. I chose to stay free.’”

At last all of the patches are laid out and the time comes to stitch the girl’s quilt. Five women stand at the frame “all stitchin’ and pullin.’” They work “in a slow and steady rhythm” relaxing and enjoying being together until the quilt is finished. In Finished, the last stitch is sewn, and the thread bitten and knotted. The girl has hundreds of ideas for future quilts. “Quilts that are about me, / the place where I live, / and the people / who have been here for generations.”

Further poems unite the history of “Baby Girl,” her family, and neighbors, and an Author’s Note about quilting and the women of Gee’s Bend follow the text.

Patricia McKessack’s free verse poems capture the close relationships and camaraderie of the generations of women who join around the quilting frame to share and pass down their art and their heart. McKessack’s conversational verses, connected page after page like the patches of a quilt, reveal the complexity of this handmade art form in the way intimate talks between friends unveil a life. Readers learn not only about the little girl and her own thoughts, but the history and influence of her immediate family, world events, inspirational figures, and deeply held beliefs that make her who she is and ties her to the other Gee’s Bend women.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s stunning acrylic paintings take readers inside the heart of the Gee’s Bend women, depicting the girl’s home, the table-sized quilting frame where the women collectively work, the plantations, the protests, and the changes that came but did not unravel the convictions, values, and love of the little girl’s family. Readers can almost hear the talking and singing of the Gee’s Bend women as they stitch their quilts, and the comforting, embracing environment is evident on every page. Cabrera’s portraits of the little girl, her mama, and her grandma are particularly moving. For What Changed, Cabrera depicts a yellow school bus appearing on the dirt road from the right hand corner of the page. In the  driver’s side mirror, a dot of a house is reflected, reminding readers that no matter how far these women are from home, Gee’s Bend is always with them.

Children—and adults—will find Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt inspirational and uplifting. This volume of poetry can be read at one sitting or delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 12

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2016 (paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0399549502

View a gallery  of fashion designs, dolls, and other handmade art work by Cozbi A. Cabrera on her website!

“I Need a Patch for That” Day Activity

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Design a Quilt Coloring Pages

 

Quilts are so much more than pieces of material sewn together—they’re life stories! Here are two quilt coloring pages for you to design and color. What does each piece mean to you? As you color each section, write a sentence about an event or thought that is important to you.

Quilt Template 1 | Quilt Template 2

Picture Book Review