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The Elephant Quilt: Stitch by Stitch to California    by Susan Lowell & Stacey Dressen-McQueen order for
Elephant Quilt
by Susan Lowell
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008 (2008)

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Lately I've been seeing a good number of picture books depicting historical characters or events; I like this method of introducing history to the youngest of children. My seven-year old daughter has become quite intrigued by American history, and I attribute that in
part to the number of books that we have been reading in this genre.

The Elephant Quilt focuses on the Gold Rush era of the 1850's. A family is traveling westward to California from their home in Missouri. To Lily Rose, the wagon ride seem to be taking forever. She is traveling with her brother, Lorenzo, her parents, and her grandma. Throughout their long and arduous journey, Lily Rose has been helping Grandma stitch a quilt, which chronicles their travels.

Along the way, she hears many stories about California. Lorenzo tells her that they are going to see the Elephant, which is what people said when they were heading west because it signified an adventure to come. During their trip, they have many interesting experiences, including meeting an Apache tribe, as well as the arrival of Lily Rose's sister Gila, who is named after the river near where she was born.

At long last they arrive in California, and the quilt is finally revealed - it is a bright, colorful pattern displaying many of the sights they took in on the journey, and in the middle, there is the unmistakable design of an elephant.

The book is designed as a quilt, with many layers of colorful patterns splotched throughout the pages, using a variety of mixed media. An author's note at the end gives a more detailed background about the story; her inspiration was an actual quilt stitched together during a real family's journey westward. This book is unusual and would be a good addition to a collection of books about different periods in American history.

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