Polacco has a gift for turning her own family stories into picture books that can touch the hearts of all.
The Keeping Quilt is now 25 years old. In this brand-new companion, Polacco turns to her great-grandmother Anna’s story of how she came to America. The pictures, vibrant and brilliantly suggestive of movement, are mostly black-and-white, shaded with her signature use of color to highlight certain details. Devotees of The Keeping Quilt will recognize Anna’s babushka, which became the border of the quilt, on the young Anna when the czar’s soldiers come to their Russian town to burn the temple and expel all the Jews. The family packs up its most precious possessions, including her papa’s sewing machine and the beautiful china teapot and cups that were a wedding present. Even as they travel, they continue the ritual of drinking from the cups for God’s blessing, breaking bread so they will never know hunger and using salt so that their lives will have flavor. When Anna’s papa’s health breaks down from hauling the cart with all their possessions, a widowed doctor takes the family in and cares for them until, once again, they are forced to leave. In gratitude for the doctor’s care and for his supplying them with passage to America, they leave him the tea set, save for one cup. Polacco closes with the journey of that particular cup to the present day.
History, religious persecution, immigration, and the skeins of faith and love that connect a family are all knit together in this powerful, accessible and deeply affecting story. (Picture book. 6-10)