There's a common thread running through this whole set of books: every patchwork quilt tells a story, and it usually a family story, passed down through generations. One thing I loved, putting this list together, was seeing how many different cultures and traditions were included among the stories. Perhaps quilting can bring together people from vastly different backgrounds, as much as it brings together families.
The Dream Quilt, by Celeste Ryan
Illustrated by Mary Haverfield
Michael often has bad dreams, until his mother gets out a special quilt from when she was a little girl, and teaches him the game that goes along with it. Each night she sends him off to dreamland with a kiss for a stamp. When Granny Rose sees the quilt, however, she notices it needs some repairs and takes it back home with her. Will the bad dreams come back?
Michael's mom teaches him that while a quilt cannot really protect us, God can and will.
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As the shortest one on the list, this one would work great for preschoolers. Cheerful illustrations take us to dreamland with Michael, and back to his cozy warm house again each morning.
Polacco tells the story of her family's special quilt, made from her great-grandmother's dress, babushka, and scraps of other family member's clothing. The new Jewish immigrants make it to help them remember their home in Russia.
Over time, the quilt is used for a Sabbath tablecloth, wedding huppas, receiving blanket for each new baby, a tent, a picnic blanket, a cape, even a last covering as grandparents pass on. Each generation passed on the stories and traditions, along with the quilt. Eventually, the quilt is remade and the original donated to a museum.
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Polacco's signature drawings enliven the story of a special family heirloom. In the illustrations, everything is in black-and-white, except for the quilt, the bright patch of color weaving together the stories as the generations pass on.
The Name Quilt, by Phyllis Root
Illustrated by Margot Apple
Every summer Sadie looks forward to being tucked in under the name quilt. Each patch has a family member's name sewn on it. In place of a book, she chooses a name and her grandma tell her the stories about that person.
When the precious quilt blows away in a windstorm, however, Sadie is sure her favorite tradition has come to and end. Luckily for her, Grandma remembers the names and the stories to go with them. By summer's end, they have a new name quilt, made by the two of them together. It even has Sadie's name on it.
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Family stories come to life with the quilt as a background. I liked the idea that just because the quilt went away, it didn't mean the memories were lost.
Quilt of Dreams, by Mindy Dwyer
Katy finds one square of a quilt in her grandmother's sewing basket, with a label pinned to it: "Kate's Quilt." She is determined to finish it! Together she and her mother painstakingly cut the fabric into triangles and sew them together, all the while remembering Gram, learning about traditions, and building a bond together.
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Watercolor illustrations, many with softened or blurred edges, add to the sweet story for a warm-hearted read about families and quilting.
The Quilt Story, by Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
A pioneer girl's favorite quilt is stashed in the attic, where it is later found by various animals, and then another little girl, who also loves it.
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One of the shorter stories on the list; this one would fit the attention span of most preschoolers. DePaola's distinctive illustrations in muted colors bring the story to life.
The Quiltmaker's Gift, by Jeff Brumbeau
Illustrated by Gail de Marcken
The story of a quiltmaker who lived in the mountains and sewed her beautiful creations to give to the poor and homeless down below. At the same time there lived a greedy king. All he wanted was presents from everyone. More, more, more! When he heard about the quiltmaker, he came to her and insisted that she give him a quilt. She would on one condition: when he gave away everything he owned, she would make him a quilt. As you might imagine, the king was not happy with the condition!
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A modern fable all about greed and generosity. The story was inspiring, but the illustrations were what really won my heart. Each page packed with detail, inset pictures (like blocks on a quilt), bright colors, and whimsy.
Each page also includes a quilt block that has to do with the part of the story on that page. The endpapers show all the blocks with their names, to match up. My copy also has a puzzle poster printed on the back of the dust jacket. So fun!
The Rag Coat, by Lauren Mills
Minna wants to go to school more than anything, but she doesn't have a coat to wear, and with Papa's recent passing, they can't afford to buy one. Then Mama's quilting friends--Minna calls them the Quilting Mothers--come up with a solution. If they all contribute some scraps, they can make Minna patchwork coat, with feed sacks for the lining. That's just what they do.
When Minna gets teased at school about the coat, though, it will take some courage to face the other kids and tell them how special it really is.
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Set in the mountains of Appalachia. I enjoyed this story about a girl overcoming her challenges with pluck, determination, the memory of her Papa, and the support of her Mama and the Quilting Mothers. Each 2-page spread includes one page of text and a picture on the facing page. This one is longer, but one that a lot of elementary-aged kids will relate to.
Reuben and the Quilt, by Merle Good
Illustrated by P. Buckley Moss
Reuben's family works together on a beautiful quilt for auction. The money is going to go to his friends' grandfather, who needs to go to the hospital but doesn't have the money. When their quilt is stolen off the porch, after all that hard work, the family will have to decide how best to respond.
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A gentle story of an Amish community coming together to help one in need, with a bonus helping of forgiveness and turning the other cheek. The illustrations echo the quilt, colors interspersed with black clothing of the characters.
Sebastian and the Balloon, by Philip C. Stead
Sebastian has decided there is nothing at all to see on his street. So he prepares for a voyage to somewhere else. He packs "all the things he would ever need" and sets off in a balloon made from Grandma's quilts and afghans. Before his voyage is through, he meets up with several interesting creatures, 3 old lady sisters who knit, and even repairs a roller coaster.
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This story is so random! Loveably quirky and imaginative. It doesn't have a tidy ending, but perhaps that is so kids can continue the adventure themselves. In fact, it sort of reminded me of one of my kids telling me their dream. The quilt connection is only with the balloon, so more of a sidenote in this story, for sure.
Show Way, by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Hudson Talbott
Newberry Honor, 2006
The story of a family, starting out in slavery. The seven year old daughter sold off without her family, but with some cloth, needles, and thread. How each generation of girls learned to sew and make quilts: a Show Way that pointed a path to freedom for escaping slaves. All the way down through the years to freedom, to mothers who could read, to little girls who marched to end segregation, to the author and her daughter. Each generation passing down the stories that came before, to always remember and to be courageous.
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This beautiful book brought tears to my eyes. Our library had it in the "picture books geared for older kids" section, I guess because of the little girls who got sold away from their families. It was a bit longer than many picture books, also. I would feel comfortable reading it to my 4 year old, though, and in fact, plan to do so this week! My favorite refrain was about the families, repeated through each generation: "Loved that baby up so. Yes, they loved that baby up."
Jacqueline Woodson is one of my favorite authors. This is another winner.
Maria lives with her grandmother Lupita on the Olson family ranch in California. Her grandmother is the cook. Maria helps where she can, but she often has time to play with Sarah Olson. Sarah and her mother are making a quilt together in the evenings, and Maria wishes very much that she could make one too, but knows that the cloth would be too expensive. Then her grandmother remembers the stack of empty flour sacks in the kitchen, and Maria begins piecing her quilt from the cut up flour sacks. With the help of the Olsons and her grandmother, Maria's quilt takes shape.
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Written in English, with 3-4 Spanish words per page written underneath their English counterparts. Large text and shorter paragraphs make this a good one for preschoolers. Also includes a recipe for homemade tortillas, as well as the Tortilla Quilt pattern.
Wrapped in Memories, by Nan Slaughter
Illustrated by Lori Lambson
Lyndsey happens upon a quilt made by her great-grandmother, with a message stitched into one of the squares:
Wrap up in this when you are cold,
The story of my life it will unfold.
It has warmed my heart, but now I'm old,
This I leave you--it's worth more than gold.
She soon finds out that the riches the poem talk about are not money, but family stories. She and her Grandma repair the quilt together and Lyndsey learns about her ancestors. When she decides to stitch "Families are Forever" onto one patch, her Grandma heartily approves.
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As with many of the other books on this list, a treasured quilt provides a link between generations. This one could have used a little tighter editing. Lyndsey's name is spelled differently on at least one of the pages.
Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet, by Ann Whitford Paul
Illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Patchwork patterns from Anvil to Zigzag. Each one is drawn up close, then in a quilt, with a third illustration for the history of the pattern.
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Interesting, including patterns I wasn't familiar with. The histories were quite general--more explaining the name of the pattern and how people used to live than the specific history of that patchwork piece. Perhaps those details are lost to time.
My Grandmother's Patchwork Quilt: A Book and Pocketful of Patchwork Pieces, by Janet Bolton
The story of a special doll's quilt made by the author's grandmother. At the bottom of the page is an outline of the quilt. Then as each block is featured, it's added to the outline. The left-hand page talks about the mechanics of making each block, while the right-hand page is more like a journal entry featuring the animals or people on the block.
Includes 10 quilt squares in a pocket on the back inside cover, with the scenes from the book traced onto them. They are ready to be made into a pattern, cut out of scrap fabric, and sewn back onto the square to make your very own doll-sized patchwork quilt.
Pieces: A Year in Poems & Quilts, by Anna Grossnickle Hines
As the title suggests, the author designed and made quilts to go illustrate her poems--or perhaps it was the other way around! In any case, each poem has a quilt reproduced to fill the entire page.
The quilts are beautiful and must have taken hours and hours! In fact, in the back, she talks a little bit about her process making them. Most of the squares she worked with were 1-1/8".
The poems take you throughout the year, though not strictly month-by-month. Instead, they go by seasons.
One of my favorite poems was the very first:
on a cedar branch.
Other favorites were "Good Heavens," "To Each His Own," and "Pageantry."
Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace, by Anna Grossnickle Hines
As with her other book, this book explores a theme through poetry, with quilts as the illustrations.
I liked how the poems covered many different aspects of peace, from letting go of angry feelings, to playing with someone alone on the playground. Other poems consider coming to peace with a sibling, peace between different races, and the interconnectedness of all of us.
These poems are deeper than those in her first book, and would be great discussion starters in a classroom or homeschool setting.
The Quilting Bee, by Gail Gibbons
Includes a brief history of quilting, definitions of quilting terms, and several different quilt blocks by name. A good introduction to the basics, with plenty of illustrations.