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The Elephant Quilt: Stitch by Stitch to California!

Overview

“We’re going to see the Elephant!” That’s what people say when they head West on a journey promising to be “something powerful strange. Like a real live elephant, but even bigger – stranger – wilder – scarier!” Lily Rose is raring to go. Along the way she’ll help stitch her family’s adventures into a grand and glorious quilt.

Inspired by a quilt sewn by young Mary Margaret Hezlep in 1859 during her journey West, readers will relish this spirited tale with its lively heroine and bold pictures, cleverly designed to...

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Stacey Dressen-McQueen Gordonsville, Virginia, U.S.A. 2008 Hard Cover New in New jacket First Edition. First Printing. Glossy pictorial hardcover with DJ. Lily Rose and Grandma ... stitch a quilt that tells the story of their family's journey from Missouri to California by covered wagon in 1859. Read more Show Less

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Stacey Dressen-McQueen Gordonsville, Virginia, U.S.A. 2008 Hard Cover New in New jacket First Edition. First Printing. Glossy pictorial hardcover with DJ. Lily Rose and Grandma ... stitch a quilt that tells the story of their family's journey from Missouri to California by covered wagon in 1859. Read more Show Less

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Overview

“We’re going to see the Elephant!” That’s what people say when they head West on a journey promising to be “something powerful strange. Like a real live elephant, but even bigger – stranger – wilder – scarier!” Lily Rose is raring to go. Along the way she’ll help stitch her family’s adventures into a grand and glorious quilt.

Inspired by a quilt sewn by young Mary Margaret Hezlep in 1859 during her journey West, readers will relish this spirited tale with its lively heroine and bold pictures, cleverly designed to include quilted elements. And they’ll have fun finding the elephant hidden in the final quilt and tracing Lily Rose’s journey from Missouri to California in the quilt border—a reminder of a trip that’s as BO-dacious as Lily Rose herself!

The Elephant Quilt is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Bubbles over with verbal and visual vim...This iteration of the popular “wagons-west” theme kicks the energy level up a notch above the usual." —Kirkus Reviews

"Dramatic, mixed-media paintings portray majestic landscapes and frontier dangers as well as moments of family merriment." —Booklist

“Her bouncy narration is well matched by the boldly hued pictures that fancifully incorporate bits of patchwork patterns, appliqué, and embroidery into literal renderings of the Western vistas.” —Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Young Lily Rose describes her family's covered-wagon journey from Missouri to California in 1859 in both words and the scenes she and her grandmother are stitching into a quilt. Her brother Lorenzo sings on their way to "see the elephant," as they said then. They see their first buffalo, then mountains, and she sews these into the quilt. They get to Santa Fe and see a gold nugget. They encounter Apaches and Cochise, followed by the desert and Pima people. Then, Lily Rose's mother presents her with a baby sister named after the Gila River. Finally they reach California. A year later, friends help them assemble the quilt, a record of their successful journey. The robust scenes are made more rugged by the esthetic design that superimposes figures that seem to be cut-out and are often outlined in white into painted settings. Dressen-McQueen incorporates decorative patterns to build bits of landscape and clothing of the period, and the overall effect resembles the quilting process. The final quilt echoes these textured objects as it presents the central stylized fruited tree and words that express the joy of arrival. This book has a map of the journey and a list of sources, as well as author's notes about the time and her family connection to the trek. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

K-Gr 4- Based on diary and journal entries of 19th-century settlers, this story depicts one family's journey by covered wagon from Missouri to California in 1859. Lily Rose continually wonders why people say, "We're going to see the Elephant," when they head west. Working with her grandmother and mother, the girl stitches her experiences into a quilt representing their adventures. The family crosses mountain ranges, copes with harsh weather, and even welcomes a new baby girl into their fold. They come across gold miners, camp out with an Apache chief, and meet kind Pima (Akimel O'otham) people before reaching their destination. The story concludes with a celebration and quilting bee on the one-year anniversary of their arrival. As they sew, Lily Rose sees the Elephant as a metaphor for their journey, and observant readers will see an elephant shape in the final illustration of the completed quilt. Told in a conversational style, this book works best when describing the girl's family and their fears and feelings; the text isn't as effective when detailing their encounter with the Pima, whose beautiful painted faces are simplistically described as "BO-dacious." The folk-art illustrations, which resemble woodcuts, are appropriate for the setting. An author's note provides information on the primary sources.-Shawn Brommer, South Central Library System, Madison, WI

Kirkus Reviews
Inspired by an actual quilt and armloads of memoirs, this account of an 1859 journey along the Santa Fe Trail bubbles over with verbal and visual vim. "I'm sewing to California!" proclaims young Lily Rose, needle in hand, as she and her Grandma make records on cloth about the mountains, storms, flora and fauna, a new baby and other milestones of their "BO-dacious" wagon trip. The trail also brings encounters with friendly groups of Apache and Pima. With a look and exuberance reminiscent of Patricia Polacco's art, Dressen-McQueen's painted scenes feature fine fabric patterns and stitchery, along with stylized figures high-stepping, nestling cozily together and eventually gathering around in a festive bee beneath California oranges to assemble the pieces of Lily Rose's quilt. The "elephant" of the title refers to a 19th-century catchphrase about having, as Lowell puts it, "the thrill, or shock, of a lifetime," and is also used (in a far more somber sense) in Pat Hughes's Seeing the Elephant: A Story of the Civil War (2007), illustrated by Ken Stark. This iteration of the popular "wagons-west" theme kicks the energy level up a notch above the usual. (afterword, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374382230
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.38 (w) x 10.84 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

SUSAN LOWELL’s books include The Bootmaker and the Elves, winner of a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. She lives in Tucson, Arizona. STACEY DRESSEN-McQUEEN was profiled as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for her illustrations in Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming, an NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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