Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Quilt Story - Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola

So her mother rocked her as mothers do. 
Then tucked her in. 
And she felt at home again under the quilt.

I know I've said, time and time again, "I remember this book because it was so integral in my childhood" or "because my mom and dad read it to me before bed" or another reason. But this book really and truly defined my bedtime (and naptime, too!) during childhood. My mom would come, book in hand, to my room, wrap me up in my quilt (that was pink and red and embroidered with all of my birth information - weight, date, name, parents, etc. - a special gift from a family friend at birth), and read The Quilt Story to me. I desperately wanted my name to be Abigail, and although I didn't want to ever move from my house in Franklin, I wanted to find a magical quilt in my attic and wrap it around me. The book has an inscription on the front of it from our best family friends that reads -
To - Kylee
Happy Valentine's Day 1991!
Love - Russ, Sheila, Edward + Logan
This book clearly has many memories for me. 
Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola tell readers the story of a little girl named Abigail, who receives a quilt from her mother with her named stitched in it. She plays with her quilt, cuddles in her quilt, wears her quilt as a gown, sleeps under her quilt when she's sick, and much more. Her family moves far across the country (in what seems to be a conestoga wagon) and she uses the quilt to wrap her up and remind her of her home. One day, she puts the quilt in her attic and left it there. Then, a new girl moves into the house (much later on - in modern times). She stumbles in the attic to chase her cat, sees the quilt, and wraps herself up in it. Johnston and dePaola show the parallels between Abigail and the little girl in modern times and then close this beautiful and beloved story with the line at the beginning of the blog, which I adore.
Although the text is beautiful in this book, like many other picturebooks, its real strength is the illustrations of Tomie dePaola. Tomie dePaola has written many infamous children's picturebooks (over 200 picturebooks in total), including the Caldecott book Streganona and the Newbery Honor book 26 Fairmount Avenue. His illustration style is easily recognizable, and often works well with his choice to write fairytales or folktales (see his list of books in his Wikipedia biography here). His illustrations work extremely well with The Quilt Story because it almost seems as if the illustrations are pieces of quilts themselves. The framing used makes the illustrations seem like individual quilt squares (or rectangles!).
My mother often came and did Terrific Tuesdays (enrichment afternoon days twice a year for the entire school) to my elementary school and talked about quilting. She often brought this book as well as The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flourny and read them to students, while bringing many of my family's quilts and collected quilts with her. We even sat together when I was home on Saturday night, thumbing through the book, and reminiscing about all of the memories that we had surrounding this book together. I tried to think of a more applicable way to integrate this into the classroom, and found a sample teaching plan with multiple lesson ideas for the book. Be sure to check that out here. I definitely think that the suggested ideas would be applicable to a variety of classroom ages, but best suited for early elementary grades.
This book will always hold a special place in my heart, and as cheesy as it sounds, I hope that I can sit with my daughter one day, wrap her in her special quilt, and share this story with her just as my mom shared it with me. 

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