This week’s Fantastic Fiction for Kids has got me very excited! Ever since I received this wonderful list from Andi at Laundry on the Line I’ve had to sit on my hands to prevent me from going and buying every single book she mentions!
Andi is an elementary school teacher who currently teaches an energetic and creative group of 6 and 7-year olds. She lives in a small town on the East Coast of Canada where she spends her free time trying to capture the lost arts of growing and preserving food, cooking from scratch, and sewing and quilting for the household, as well as taking time to curl up with a good book! So now for her books and comments…
This is definitely one of my all-time favourite books on the sewing theme. It is the story of Joseph, whose Grandfather made him a blanket when he was young, “to keep him warm and cosy and chase away bad dreams.” Joseph brings his blanket everywhere until it is worn and his mother threatens to throw it out. Joseph takes it to Grandpa to fix it and Grandpa turns it into a “wonderful jacket.” And so the story goes, each time Joseph wears his Grandfather’s creation until his mother threatens to throw it out and then Grandpa turns it into a new, but smaller, item. The illustrations in the book are phenomenal and my 6 and 7 year-old students especially love the second story told by the mice in each illustration, which grab Grandpa’s scraps and turn them into items for their family, page by page. The language is repetitive and it is easy for children to join in the telling. It’s a wonderful way to share with children the joy of turning something old and worn into something new and beautiful.
This book actually tells the same Jewish folk tale as Something from Nothing but it is a story worth telling twice! The story here is much simpler, the illustrations brighter, livelier, and full of texture. On each page there is a window cut out, the size and shape of Joseph’s next sewing project. When the page is turned, it fits over that favourite item and turns it into something new. For those who play instruments or sing, the words and music for the song behind the story are included in the back. I read this one often when I taught younger students (4 and 5 year olds) as they loved the “magic windows” and guessing what Joseph would make next.
For the first several years that I was a teacher I made a quilt with my class every year. Once in a while I would come across a boy who thought sewing and making quilts was “just for girls.” This book was the answer. In the book, set in the days of bonnets and quilting bees, one man decides he wants to join the ladies quilting guild. After being turned down, he rallies the men to create their own quilting guild and thus begins a battle for the best quilt at the county fair. Children of all ages enjoy this book and I particularly like the peaceful ending. Best of all, it always convinced the boys that men could be quilters too! Making quilts is a great activity for children of all ages. When I was teaching 3-year-olds, I let them use fabric paints to create their quilt blocks, and one class even dyed their own fabric using non-toxic egg-dye at Easter time. I taught older children to use the sewing machine (the smallest ones on my knee!) and some of them even did some hand embroidery on their quilts. The finished product was always a wonderful keepsake!
This is a beautiful, fanciful story about a seamstress who enters a dull, plain town and changes their world with her sewing. She sews the utilitarian clothes they ask her to, but lines their pockets with images that dreams are made of, causing the townspeople to see visions of far-off seas and colourful places. It is a slightly strange tale, heavy with language, and yet I can’t help being swept into the story anyway. It is well illustrated, with the colour being bolder and brighter as the story unfolds. In my classroom we put our hands deep in our pockets and pretended that we were in each far-off place and then drew pictures of our travels. If I were sewing clothes for children who had read this book I imagine I would want to sew them with beautiful images in the pockets, so they could be carried away by their imaginations whenever the mood strikes.
Thanks, Andi, for these lovely suggestions!
I mentioned several sewing related kids’ projects and pieces of music when I reviewed Halibut Jackson (in case you don’t click through then you should at least have a listen to the very wonderful Sewing Machine Song by TR Kelley – an utterly delightful, moving ballad about the history of a singer sewing machine!), but if you want more sewing projects that kids can enjoy take a look at Kids Sewing Projects and at Sewing School, a really lovely collaborative blog written by 2 friends who enjoy teaching children how to sew.
If you’d like to find out more about Phoebe Gilman (author and llustrator of Something from Nothing) you could check out her website. Here too are Simms Taback’s website and Jennifer Armstrong’s site.
Finally, this post from Planet Esme reviews a couple more books about sewing/quilting that sound just lovely, and the January Picture Book of the Month over at BookAdvice.net is a quilting book. Now it’s your turn – what books would you recommend which have a sewing theme?