Monday, April 9, 2012

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery

Both beautiful and moving, I Lay My Stitches Down blends poetry and quilting to give us a snapshot of the lives of American slaves. The colorful, quilted pictures evoke strong emotions and the lyrical poems poignantly express daily life.

Author Cynthia Grady and artist Michele Wood have joined to create a unique, interesting volume, rich in history, emotion and scripture. In fact, Grady has purposefully included "a biblical or scriptural reference, a musical reference, and a sewing or fiber arts reference. . ." in each verse. The verses also represent a quilting square, as they consist of ten lines and ten syllables. Wood's artwork also uses squares and patterns to evoke the images of quilts. Grady also includes explanatory notes, giving specific information about daily life, traditions, spiritual songs, and African heritage.

The poems use the vernacular, and cover a wide range of topics. The harsh realities of relentless work, slave families torn apart for profit, and the dangers of the underground railroad are portrayed. However, there are also poems celebrating the bravery of slaves and those who helped them. In "Schoolhouse," a schoolteacher conducted lessons loud enough for slaves to hear, and in "North Star," a slave owner taught a young man to read and freed him.

What I Like: My oldest daughter was fascinated by the poems and images in the book. I like the way the poems give us a glimpse of daily routines, but also show the emotions behind them. In the poem, "Broken Dishes," we read, "She always needling me./'Add some more salt.'/Or, 'Girl, why cain't you move faster than that?"/Her voice so shrill, it make your skin goose up."

I love the paintings, as well. Wood's bold colors, gorgeous patterns, and characters with vivid facial expressions perfectly capture the spirit of the poems.

The link between faith, quilts and slavery is an interesting angle, and makes me curious to learn more about about quilting.

What I Dislike: Nothing

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 10 and up

Publisher Info: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2012; ISBN: 978-0-8028-5386-8; Hardcover, 32 pages, $17.00

Buy it Now at for $12.99

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Annette Whipple said...

Hello Ladies,

I was wondering if you have ever considered making a list of series or authors appropriate for different ages. Sometimes it is a bit much to go through all of the blog posts to browse by age. Thanks for considering this!

Proverbs Thirty One Woman said...

Annette, we have. It's even been started, but it's a huge undertaking given the number of book reviews we've posted. I hope to have it completed sometime this year.