Friday, December 18, 2009

A Stitch in Time

Here are two satisfying stories with more than a few things in common. They are both about children and their mothers carrying on with their lives at war’s end. They each contain lessons about creating something when your resources are slim to none. Sewing is the dominate theme in each book. And each story ends with a reward: supplies for a new school in one case and a much needed coat in the other.

The promise implied in the title, The Promise Quilt, was made to Addie by her father before he joined General Lee’s army. That promise was that he would take Addie to school. He never returns from the war, but his red shirt is sent to the family from a woman at the Northern hospital where he died. Mama gives the sentimental shirt to Addie. They continue on, doing what they need to survive. When Addie brings up going to school, her Mama reminds her that the soldiers burnt the school down.

“But Papa promised!” Addie cries. Mama tries to find a way to make school a reality for Addie. A neighbor offers his shed as a makeshift shoolhouse but they need money for supplies. When Mama writes the woman at the Northern hospital, she replies with the suggestion that Mama make a quilt, send it to her, she will auction it off and put the money towards books. When Mama is almost finished with the quilt she realizes that she doesn’t have enough material for the border. Do you see where this is going? Addie offers her father’s shirt. Everything falls into place, Addie goes to school, and in a way, Papa kept his promise.

Candice F. Ransom does an excellent job of giving a child’s perspective of the Civil War and it’s after effect. It's a lovely, bittersweet selection.

Ages 6-9

This book is a lesson in resourcefulness and in the processes involved in making a coat. A New Coat for Anna takes place in Europe after World War II. Anna has outgrown her coat, but new coats and money are scarce. Anna's mother trades possessions with people who can provide the material or service she needs to get Anna a coat. After their year long project is finished, Anna and her mother celebrate Christmas Eve by inviting over the farmer, spinner, weaver and tailor. And, of course, Anna visits the sheep the next day to show them her coat made from their wool.

Your children may never look at their clothes in the same way again. This is a very clever and appealing book.

Ages 6-9

Activity: Can you help make a coat by putting the necessary procedures in the correct order?

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