Children's Storybooks with a Quilting Theme A PATCHWORK OF PLOTS By Bob Ruggiero

Many quilters will tell you that their first exposure to the art form was through the quilting of a family member or friend. But a surprising number of children’s books also have quilt-based themes and storylines.

Ranging from contemporary funny family tales to historical faction and fantasy themes, here is a selected list of titles that just might spark the desire in a little one in your life to find out more about what they heck you’re doing in that room with all the fabric and thread!

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

The author/illustrator of more than 50 children’s books, Polacco’s tale draws on her family’s immigrant experience of New York City in the early late 19th/early 20th century. In it, a young Russian girl named Anna comes to America with only a dress and babushka to remind her of her homeland.

When those items become outgrown and worn, Anna’s mother takes them—along with other family clothing—to make a memory quilt. The quilt accompanies Anna through her life in family celebrations, courtship, wedding, married life, and death, and is eventually passed down through the family in generations until ending up with Polacco herself in a “Twilight Zone” style ending!

The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy, pictures by Jerry Pinkney

A touching intergenerational story about a young girl, Tanya, who has a deep and special relationship with her grandmother while the latter is making a scrap quilt. When Tanya’s mother offers to just buy the darn thing, grandma’s words to Tanya will strike a chord with a lot of quilters: “Yes, your mama can get you a quilt from any department store, but it won’t be like my patchwork quilt, and it won’t last as long either.”

As Tanya and her grandmother work on the quilt together over the course of a year and through life and family milestones, they grow close. But when grandmother grows ill and can no longer cut and stitch, Tanya is determined to finish the project…UFOs be damned!

The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola

Not the book for quilt preservationists! When Abigail’s mother makes her a special quilt, she uses to keep her warm, play with, and host a tea party with her dolls (and spills tea on it!). When the family moves, the quilt becomes Abigail’s link to her past.

The quilt is eventually stored in the attic where—horrors!—mice, raccoons, and cats enjoy it…sometimes as nourishment. Later, as descendants find the quilt and another little girl becomes attached to it, the quilt also becomes a warm and familiar object for her when the family moves into a new house.

The Boy and the Quilt by Shirley Kurtz, illustrated by Cheryl Benner

Who sez quilting is just for girls? In this story, a young boy’s mother and sister are going to make a quilt, and he wants in on the action. “He thought making a quilt might be easy, or at least fun, and it would be sometimes,” Kurtz writes. “Other times, though, it would seem like a chore, like feeding the dog or mowing the lawn.”

As the boy learns to find fabric squares, cardboard templates, and works on his design (with mom handling the scissors and needles, ‘natch), his determination wins him his family’s admiration. Finally, he sleeps under the finished quilt—with the family cat and dog nestle on top—and slumbers peacefully.

Luka's Quilt by Georgia Guback

Fans of Hawaiian quilting in particular will appreciate this tale of Luka and her grandmother Tutu. The pair are tight, but that changes when Tutu takes Luka to pick out fabric for a quilt she wants to make, and later presents her with a traditional, two-color Hawaiian quilt. Luka is upset, though, because the “flowers” are all white and certainly don’t look like what’s in the garden. From there, their relationship goes downhill.

But when the pair attend a Lei Day celebration, Luka learns to appreciate the quilt better. And when Tutu makes a quilted Lei of colorful flowers that she can put on top of the quilt, everything is better! Spoiled brat! She should be forced to listen to nothing but Don Ho’s Greatest Hits in iPod Shuffle!

The Quilt by Ann Jonas

When a girl’s parents (both of them!) make her a quilt made out of her old pajamas, cloths, and crib sheet for her “grown up” bed, she can hardly contain herself…or go to sleep. But she can’t find the square of fabric mom also used to make her toy stuffed dog, Sally.

When the girl does drift off, she has a Willy Wonka LSD-style  hallucinogenic-dream in search of the fabric that takes her to the circus, a dark forest, a scary tunnel, and a steep cliff! Oh no! Will she wake up? Or will a Fabric Freddy Krueger insure that she never threads a needle as an adult? And what happens to Sally?

Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt by Patricia C. McKissick, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Another intergenerational story that tells the story of the Gee’s Bend quilters through the eyes of a young girl who played beneath her relatives’ quilting frame while they worked on their art. Listening to the women talk and learning the whole time, “Baby Girl” cannot wait until she joins the adults…but she has to prove herself first, particularly by Grandma’s rules of quilting: “all by hand, nothing wasted.” Sewing machines? Fuggedaboudit!

Baby Girl also learns the history of Gee’s Bend and the struggles of African-American life, the civil rights movement, country vs. city life, Martin Luther King, school segregation, and how the quilting bee brings everyone together. Including her, with the women she loves.

Oma's Quilt by Paulette Bourgeois and Stéphane Jorisch

Ah, yes, elder care—a very hot topic today. When Emily’s grandmother (“Oma”) moves into a retirement home—leaving the house she spent most of her life in and longtime neighbors behind—she is not a happy senior citizen. In her new place, the food is funny (lima beans two times a week!), she can’t sleep, and the flowers make her sneeze!

But when Emily and Mom start sorting through Oma’s things at the house, they find a raggedy quilt made out of grandfather’s (“Opa”) work shirts. They repair the quilt, present it to Oma, and she tells them a story about each piece of fabric they’ve sewn in. And Oma is happy enough to help the retirement home cook make cabbage soup and strudel!

Cassie's Word Quilt by Faith Ringgold

The accomplished quilt artist, historian, and professor Ringgold produced this charming book for younger readers, which teaches basic vocabulary featuring her artwork laid out in a series of boxes like quilts. The “patchwork tour” of 1930’s-era Harlem features Ringgold’s bold, colorful paintings throughout.

The Quiltmaker's Gift and The Quiltmaker's Journey by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken

Possibly the best-known quilting-themed books for children, they incorporate fantasy, fables, quilt patterns, and detailed artwork into an adventurous storyline.

In The Quiltmaker’s Gift, a quilter with magic in her fingers (and really, what quilter doesn’t want those?) sews beautiful quilts and gives them away. But a powerful and greedy king—who celebrates his birthday twice a year, demanding presents from his subjects— can’t seem to be happy because he wants something really pretty (and Prozac wasn’t invented yet). He insists the quilter make something incredible for him, but he ends up chaining her to a bear…who she manages to charm.

Will the Quiltmaker teach the king to share? Will the king become happy with something beautiful? And what does the bear get out of all of this besides something to put under his head during hibernation?

The Quiltmaker’s Journey is a sequel, but also a prequel (sort of like Godfather II), and tells the story of how the Quiltmaker learned and honed her craft, while going on incredible journeys and adventures of her own to learn the meaning of happiness.


© 2012. A publication of Quintessential Quilt Media. No portion may be reproduced without the expressed written consent of Quilts, Inc.