Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The Elephant Quilt: Stitch by stitch to California! by Susan Lowell, pictures by Stacey Dressen-McQueen - review
The Elephant Quilt: Stitch by stitch to California! by Susan Lowell, pictures by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
This is probably the best picture book about the journey west I have ever seen. The author uses the creation of a quilt - fabric scraps embroidered with dates and places - as a metaphor for the overland journey, and indeed, the book's little girl protagonist, Lily Rose, encounters the whole spectrum of frontier experience. She meets Native Americans, sees buffalo and cactus for the first time, fords rivers and eats mountain snow. The various members of her family each have different reactions and motivations for taking the trip.
The illustrations carry the quilt metaphor forward. Without looking too trompe-l'oeil, background elements are often painted as printed fabrics, and illustration elements are often surrounded by a subtle line of painted stitches or outline.
In addition, the characters are firmly drawn and likable. There's a baby born en route, and even a custom version of "Oh, Susanna" that everyone can sing along with at storytime.