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SKY SASH SO BLUE by Libby Hathorn


by Libby Hathorn & illustrated by Benny Andrews

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-689-81090-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A fine picture book from Hathorn and Andrews: The text, a poem, is provoking and challenging, with a pulsing lyric understatement, while the superb artwork is composed of a collage of fabric snips painted in subtly harmonious, unctuous color. A mother and her two daughters are slaves on a plantation. The action involves the cobbling together from cloth fragments a wedding dress for the older daughter, Sissy (“A scrap of net, outrageous, light/Round Sissy’s neck, this flimsy tie./Susannah laughs at the very sight,/Her sister looks so pleased, so shy”), who is to be married to John Bee, a free man. They gather almost all that they need, but for the back panel, which miraculously appears when the lady from the Big House wants a sheet cut up for dusters. The dress completed, the mother presides at the wedding (a preacher has been disallowed by the missus, which, as if the dress were not enough, will give young readers a taste of a slave’s life), and while there is great happiness, the couple must part: John returns to his work to earn money toward buying Sissy’s freedom. The dress is taken apart, returned to dusters, but that it was made at all is nothing short of inspirational. When Sissy finally leaves, the sadness of her mother and Susannah is tempered by the thought of a new dress, a waiting dress, for Sissy’s child, to be born free. Through it all runs Susannah’s sky blue sash, a simple but talismanic scarf, a vehicle to express love, generosity, remembrance, and the tie that binds. (Picture book/poetry. 5-9)