Enslaved African-Americans voice the weariness, drudgery, agony and dreams of their lives in a beautiful and informative collection of poetry and paintings.
In her debut title, Grady structures free verse to mirror the patterns of traditional American quilt blocks, variations on a square. In the poems, each 10 lines with 10 syllables per line, the words and thoughts read seamlessly and build to heart-rending finales. They speak of daily lives made bearable by the words of a preacher, the joys of singing and the quiet rhythms of stitching. A woman bent over her basket of scraps can see her “troubles fall / away.” A man calming a horse can find a “patchwork field of freedom.” Children outside a school building scratch out the alphabet because “[i]t gives us hope; it sings us home.” Each poem is accompanied by brief background information on slavery and on the quilt-block pattern that inspired it. Full-page paintings by Wood, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner, pulsate with vibrant colors and intensity. Each incorporates the quilt pattern that served as Grady’s inspiration into a collage-styled portrait. Readers will find themselves poring over the many details in the art and connecting them with the verses.
A powerful grouping of thought-provoking poems and brilliantly designed paintings. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Poetry. 10 & up)