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Another Amazing book about Quilts

I wrote about books about quilts and the civil war a while ago. Recently, I was at the library for our homeschool coop, planning to use one of those books, but their internet wasn’t working, so I couldn’t find the book titles from my earlier post.

I asked the librarian if she could think of books about quilts and the civil war/underground railroad, and she instantly thought of a different book than those I had read. Luckily the book was checked in, and she quickly found me an amazing book called Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott.

Show Way is a story told through quilts, poetry, and pictures of a family – generations of women who were sold as children (age 7!) from their families, but brought with them fabric and sewing implements. They would learn about the ways to freedom, and sew the route in their quilts. Unlike some other quilts that were an obvious map, these were different – they used established patterns (log cabin, zig zag, etc) to tell of a path.

The illustrations are beautiful, and incredibly striking. The artist has used a lot of skill to bring the focus on the young girls – in one picture everyone else is in black and white, but the (twin) 7 year old girls are in pink. The softness of the quilts is in stark contrast to some of the other images. Each of the quilts in the pictures is a work of art in and of itself. It made me want to take my kids to the next quilt show I could find!

This is in some ways a beautiful story of resilience. It is also a story about loss – I can’t imagine having my 7 year old daughter forced from my arms to go work on a plantation in another state. It also discusses that a few names are missing – they got lost over time because of the disruptions of family. I got quite choked up by the end of Show Way (as did other adults, not the kids, though).

One thing that really resonated me about this book is that it followed the family line from slavery through the civil rights movement through today. Our family discusses the Civil War along with the Civil Rights movement, and it is incredibly moving to see it so clearly linked within one family.

Homeschool activity ideas:

  • Make “quilt squares” with unifix cubes/cuisinaire rods/other manipulatives (don’t forget your camera for pictures!)
  • Make “quilt squares” with paper cutouts or graph paper and crayons, then glue the family or coop’s quilt squares onto a larger paper to make a complete quilt
  • Draw maps of how to get from one location to another without words, just landmarks
  • Link to other ways of sending messages that are difficult to intercept – this could tie into math (codes); languages (sign, foreign languages, the Navajo language used as a code in World War II); geography (encoded maps/trying to find something on a map); and science (disappearing ink of various types)
  • Genealogical research – this story follows the mother’s line back several generations – can you follow your family back x number of generations?

(Obviously, different activities will appeal to different children and different age ranges! If you have a wide age range, some of these will work better than others)

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