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Abbie in Stitches    by Cynthia Cotten & Beth Peck order for
Abbie in Stitches
by Cynthia Cotten
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Abbie in Stitches is a historical picture book that celebrates individuality and one young girl's love of reading. Abbie lives in a time when women were expected to learn skills that would prepare them to become housewives. Abbie is forced to take sewing and stitching lessons. When she asks why she needs to know so many fancy stitches, her mother replies, 'To show you're an accomplished young woman.'

Initially, Abbie rebels against her sewing lessons, preferring instead to spend her time reading. She tells her sister Sarah that when she grows up, she will read and not stitch. Her sister's response is in accordance with the attitude of that era: 'Books are for boys,' says Sarah. 'Needlework is for girls.' Abbie reluctantly struggles through her sewing and stitching lessons, though she always tries to sneak in some reading time, to her mother's chagrin. When it's time to make a sampler, Abbie can't decide on a design. Her teacher basically tells her to follow her heart and create something important to her. Abbie takes her teacher's advice and stitches a sampler with the words: 'I would rather read.'

The book showcases that girls and women are multidimensional, and even those girls expected to follow traditional roles should be who they are and stand up for their beliefs. In the end, her family come to respect her wishes: Abbie's sister Sarah knits her a bookmark, and her mother presents her with Gulliver's Travels. An end note helpfully explains the role of women and stitching in the 18th and 19th centuries. And Peck's illustrations are beautiful; they have an Impressionist feel to them, a style of art appropriate for the time period reflected in the book.

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