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Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt    by Patricia McKissack & Cozbi A. Cabrera order for
Stitchin' and Pullin'
by Patricia McKissack
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Stitchin' and Pullin' celebrates a rural community (Gee's Bend in Wilcox County, Alabama) that grew from a society of emancipated slaves. The story showcases their quilting tradition, which (as Matt Arnett's Introduction tells us 'reinforced the ties between generations'.

Patricia McKissack tells the Gee's Bend story in free verse, richly illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera's drawings of quilts and quilting. A young narrator begins by introducing the community: 'Makers of artful quilts / Unmatched. / Gee's Bend women are / Relatives / Neighbors / Friends - / Same as me.' She tells of quilts hanging on museum walls ('Who would have ever thought?') She shares what it was like to play as a child Beneath the Quilting Frame; to get 'Busy / threading needles and / cutting scraps'; to piece memories into her very own quilt with help from Grandma, 'making a picture, / telling a story.' She tells her city cousin, 'Quilting is painting a poem with fabric'.

Just as the child pieces memories (her own, Grandma's and Great-Gran's) into her first quilt, so does storyteller McKissack piece black American history into her picture book - Bloody Sunday in Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King bringing hope, winning the right to vote, and mourning for those who died in the struggle. In her Author's Note at the end, McKissack reminds us that 'Our lives are like quilts' which 'become a link to the past and a beacon for future generations.' Read Stitchin' and Pullin' to share a vivid patchwork of history together.

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