The story of a little-known historical figure whose life was sewn together with quilts.
Harriet Powers, born a slave near Athens, Georgia, grew up surrounded by textile arts: carding, dyeing, and weaving cloth and sewing and stuffing batting into quilts. The women and girls in her family taught her these arts at an early age, and she promised one day to “sew a magic world.” After she married and had children, the Civil War came and went, leaving her large family with no livelihood. Harriet picked up her needle and began to turn nothing into something…something that she loved but sold to feed her family. Though Harriet sewed only two story quilts in her lifetime, their uniqueness and intricacy have made them museum-worthy; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston now house these works of art. Each of the 11 panels in the “Bible” quilt and the 15 in the “Pictorial” quilt contain a story from the Bible or from history. Punctuating Herkert’s narrative of Powers’ life are informative historical tidbits imposed onto small, frayed swatches of fabric. Brantley-Newton’s airy, colorful mixed-media illustrations include a wonderful array of fabrics with different designs and textures, and the skin tones of the black characters depict a realistically diverse range. Unsourced dialogue makes the book problematic as nonfiction, but as a picture-book introduction to an unsung artist, it inspires.
Harriet Powers: an artist worth knowing. (author’s notes, bibliography, quilt explanations) (Picture book. 5-8)