Leaving Gee's Bend

Leaving Gee's Bend

4.8 6
by Irene Latham

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Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but she can still put in a good stitch. Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things go wrong.

But when Mama goes into labor early and gets deathly ill, it seems like even quilting won't help. That's when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic?leave Gee's Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine that can

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Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but she can still put in a good stitch. Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things go wrong.

But when Mama goes into labor early and gets deathly ill, it seems like even quilting won't help. That's when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic?leave Gee's Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine that can only be found miles away in Camden. But that doesn't stop Ludelphia. She just puts one foot in front of the other.

What ensues is a wonderful, riveting and sometimes dangerous adventure. Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make her mother proud, and ends up saving the day for her entire town.

Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Gee's Bend, Alabama, Leaving Gee's Bend is a delightful, satisfying story of a young girl facing a brave new world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Debut author Latham offers an accessible piece of historical fiction, drawn from the real-life quilting traditions of Gee’s Bend, Ala. Ludelphia Bennett—a strong-willed 10-year-old living in the small sharecropping community in 1932—may be blind in one eye, the result of a wood-chopping accident, but she both adores and excels at quilting. “Mama always said you should live a life the same way you piece a quilt,” she says. “That you was the one in charge of where you put the pieces. You was the one to decide how your story turns out.” When her mother falls ill, Ludelphia takes off for Camden to find medical help, while trying to avoid Mrs. Cobb, the widow of the sharecroppers’ boss, who has become unstable after the deaths of her husband and niece. Latham offers numerous heart-stirring moments, though while her story is heartfelt, several characters feel lacking in depth and complexity. Ludelphia is a determined heroine, but her internal monologue—“Mama, if this here needle can make it across the Alabama River, you can make it too”—tends toward the treacly. Ages 10–up. (Jan.)
VOYA - KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson
"Mama always said every quilt tells a story," ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett says. When Mama gets sick and Daddy becomes distracted with taking care of her and their newborn daughter, Ludelphia slips away from home determined to travel forty miles from Gee's Bend, Alabama, to Camden where she hopes to find Doc Nelson willing and able to save Mama. As Ludelphia travels—armed with needle, thread, and the beginnings of a quilt—she is faced with one obstacle after another before she finally makes it to Doc Nelson's home. Although Mrs. Nelson is in the middle of conducting a Red Cross Drive designed to help those suffering during the depression, she still manages to make Ludelphia feel at home and tries to console her when Doc Nelson says Mama probably has pneumonia, a disease he cannot treat. An author's note explains that Latham, influenced by her love of textile art, became fascinated by Gee's Bend and its renowned quilts. Some readers might enjoy this coming-of-age tale set in a rural community featuring a spunky girl with one eye. Omight have trouble connecting with Ludelphia because her closest friend is a mule named Delilah, and she has never had a Coke. Much of the book seems contrived, especially the secondary plot involving accusations that Ludelphia's neighbor, Etta Mae, is a witch and the story line that involves Mrs. Cobb, the woman who owns the land Ludelphia's family and friends work on. Reviewer: KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Blind in one eye and shouldering a fair share of work as part of a family of sharecroppers, 10-year-old Ludelphia Bennett is no stranger to hardship or determination. Though her small town of Gee's Bend is geographically isolated by the Alabama River, she sets off on her own to Camden, 40 miles away, to find a doctor for her sick mother. Constant throughout her arduous journey is a stitched-together fabric, and she both physically and mentally chronicles her experiences as she pieces a quilt together. This is the way Ludelphia tells her story, of seeing white people for the first time, of encountering kindness and hate, and it is also the way Latham pays homage to the community spirit that historically fostered a heritage of artisan quilt-makers. While there is a bit of a reliance on coincidence, what shines through is the characterization and sense of place. Rural Alabama of 1932 is brought to life, complete with characters' prejudices and superstitions that are eventually overcome thanks to Ludelphia's indomitable strength. Here is a story that is comforting and warm, just like the quilts that make Gee's Bend famous.—Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
In 1932 Gee's Bend, ten-year-old Ludelphia thinks clearest while stitching, so when her mother becomes deathly ill, Ludelphia takes along a quilt top as she crosses the river to get help. She is oddly fixated on her stitching and delays her life-saving journey repeatedly to work the quilt, even to the point of incorporating her pocket in it, which requires her to carry it in her hand for the rest of the trip. Though it seems Latham is trying to develop an engagingly absentminded or single-minded character, Ludelphia comes off instead as dense, and the constant returning to the quilt is an authorial artifice. The story depends on Ludelphia's development and voice to carry it, other characters and the setting remaining one-dimensional. The author describes being inspired to tell this story after seeing the exhibit "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" and notes sources for her research. She's taken liberties in depicting real people and events, which is permissible in fiction, but still regrettable when done poorly. (Historical fiction. 9-12)
Ludelphia's voice is authentic and memorable.
Children's Literature - Karen Leggett
Leaving Gee's Bend celebrates the indomitable human spirit while reminding us on every page of the crushing humiliation and destructive power of documentation, prejudice, and revenge. Ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett, blind in one eye because there was no doctor to treat her accidental injury, takes off barefoot to find a doctor for her ailing mother. Irene Latham, who lives not far from Gee's Bend, was inspired by the town's renowned quilting traditions. Throughout the story, Ludelphia clutches the scraps she is slowly piecing together for a quilt for her mother. Filled with Ludelphia's fears, hopes, and dreams, the book is also a page-turner: will her mother—and the new baby—survive childbirth? Why does everyone think Etta Mae is a witch, and will Mrs. Cobb really do to the people of Gee's Bend what she threatens? The story could be read aloud to a class of fourth or fifth graders or become the source of endless literary and social discussion for older students. Irene Latham's first novel is a dramatic beginning, well worth a spot on a library shelf or reading list. Reviewer: Karen Leggett

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
252 KB
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

Irene Latham lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and three children. This is her first novel.

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Leaving Gee's Bend 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
earthfriend More than 1 year ago
This story hooked me from the beginning. Ludelphia was a brave young girl and her experiences were poignant, yet exciting. I did not want to stop reading once I started. I think the author caught the spirit of a child who lived through a very difficult time. She wove the history into the story so that you felt Ludelphia's story was true. It was heartwarming to see the love and loyalty in her family. All middle grade children should read this to know and understand what it was like for blacks during those years of segregation. The author uses vivid imagery to set the scene and one gets the feeling of being present in the middle of a tough situation which fortunately ends on a happy note. Well done.
Jake Casey More than 1 year ago
Just read the sample andd im hooked so gona buy this. Highly recmond this book if u like good stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Irene Latham's lyrical prose tells the story of the adventurous Ludelphia, who walks out of Gee's Bend and into the reader's heart. Loved the history behind this stand out story.
mother-of-7 More than 1 year ago
wonderful story, wonderfully written. i admire the people of gee's bend so much. they will get into your heart as you read. there were great characters in this book, well developed. the plot moved along nicely while keeping you guessing where it was going to go. Ludelphia is a true heroine. ms. latham paints a vivid picture of the times and people her story is set in. this book will definitely give anyone reading it insight into the world of Gee's Bend at the time of the Depression. there are some realistic scenes of a birth, but nothing too graphic for older children. highly recommended for middle school and above.
GardeningMom More than 1 year ago
Exciting story based on real events. You will admire the bravery of the young main character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago