Nova's Reviews > The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom

The Patchwork Path by Bettye Stroud
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Jan 22, 08

bookshelves: library-materials

The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom tells the story of a young girl and her father’s flight from slavery to freedom. Hannah uses the quilt that her mother made to guide her and her father through the frightening journey. Each square from the quilt symbolizes an action or path that they will need to take to reach Canada safely. As long as Hannah remembers, her mother and father have been talking about freedom, but when her sister is sold to a different slave owner and Hannah’s mother dies of a broken heart, Hannah and her father decide to run away to Canada. This is a touching tale of bravery. During each step of the journey Hannah refers to the quilt for guidance, and the reader feels that her mother is with her. Hannah and her father make it to Canada safely and they prepare to begin their new lives.
At the end of the story the author writes about how the story idea came from a book called Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. According to the book, slaves used quilts to plan escapes and make maps to share with each other. Stroud uses these true accounts to create this historical fiction picture book. Erin Susanne Bennett uses oils to create the rich illustrations. The quilt theme is carried throughout the entire story. Quilt blocks are illustrated for each leg of the journey and the illustrator carries the geometric quality of quilt blocks throughout the rest of the illustrations. Teachers could use this story for a study of Black History Month or for a Civil War or pre-Civil War unit. This could be used with students from Kindergarten to 3rd grade. The strength of this story is that it deals with a hard to understand time in this country in a way that is appropriate and sensitive for very young readers.
The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom was reviewed very well. Anne Hanson from Library Media Connection agreed that the theme of the quilt was echoed in the drawing of people, landscapes, and structures. She said that using this style “enhanced the sense that the quilt is ever-present”. The reviewer from Horn Book wrote that the book was a well written personal narrative, and that the afterward provided historical authenticity.
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