An illuminating picture book biography of an artist and former slave whose patchwork quilts bring the stories of her family to life.
Harriet Powers learned to sew and quilt as a young slave girl on a Georgia plantation. She lived through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and eventually owned a cotton farm with her family, all the while relying on her skills with the needle to clothe and feed her children.
Later she began making pictorial quilts, using each square to illustrate Bible stories and local legends. She exhibited her quilts at local cotton fairs, and though she never traveled outside of Georgia, her quilts are now priceless examples of African American folk art.
Barbara Herkert’s lyrical narrative and Vanessa Newton’s patchwork illustrations bring this important artist to life in a moving picture-book biography.
About the Author
Barbara Herkert has been creating stories since the first grade and is also the author of Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter. She received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University and studied art and art history at Oregon State University. She now lives on the Oregon coast with her family and spends time in a log house near Bend, Oregon. You can learn more about Barbara and her books at BarbaraHerkert.com.
Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter who studied fashion illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology and children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of Let Freedom Sing and Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table and has illustrated numerous children’s books, including One Love and Every Little Thing, words by Bob & Cedella Marley, and Presenting Tallulah by Tori Spelling. Vanessa currently makes her nest in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, daughter, and a very rambunctious cat named Stripes. Learn more about Vanessa and her artwork at OohLaLaDesignStudio.blogspot.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book reminds me of an excerpt of the Humans of New York, learning about a fascinating person who might not be well-known, and who certainly didn't set out to be well-known but nonetheless leaves a strong emotional connection with the reader. Especially at election time, I hear a lot of people talking about what they think. For me, what a person does is often a better indication of their character. And this book is about a doer. Someone who needed to survive. Someone who found a way to make beauty in difficult situations. The text uses lovely lyrical language. This line is my favorite: "Then Harriet explained each story sewn within the squares, like the lyrics of a song spun into cloth." Note: I received an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Sewing Stories follows Harriet Powers’ journey from child slave to adult quilting artist. The illustrations drew me in immediately, with tender facial expressions that reveal the innocence and dedication of Harriet’s family. A mixture of hand crafted and vintage fabric patterns boast a time honored feel. I connected emotionally with the main storyline, especially since Harriet’s family met their struggles with determination and love. Some of the side panel facts are listed as things that “may” have happened, which held me back from fully trusting the validity of the suggestions. Still, the story sparks interest in this historical figure. The factual information in the Author’s Note and Back Matter show support for the main highlighted facts from the story and delve further into the meaning behind Harriet’s story quilts.