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I LAY MY STITCHES DOWN by Cynthia Grady Kirkus Star


Poems of American Slavery

by Cynthia Grady & illustrated by Michele Wood

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5386-8
Publisher: Eerdmans

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)