Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist

illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 40p. bibliog. ebook available. reprods. Knopf. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385754620. LC 2013037480.
K-Gr 3—This picture book biography introduces readers to Harriet Powers, an African American artist who grew up as a slave and was freed by the end of the Civil War. As a young girl on a Georgia plantation, she learned how to make cloth, dye it using natural colorings, and make quilts with appliqué designs stitched on fabric. Powers married and became a wife and mother of five, using her skills as a quilter to help support her family. The story is told in a folksy, conversational tone. Multiple text boxes provide additional information in a clear, direct style, supporting the main text. Upbeat and cheerful, the mixed-media illustrations (a combination of digital art and gouache) present Powers in a positive light and provide details of her daily life. The endpapers feature reproductions of Powers's two existing quilts, and back matter includes an author's note, a photograph of the artist, and an explanation of each of the story quilts. Overall, this is an illuminating introduction to a largely unknown artist. However, teachers and librarians should be aware that there is a considerable amount of fictionalized dialogue: no sources are provided for the quotes from the subject.
VERDICT Despite some limitations, this is a much-needed introduction to the life of a little known African American artist, with many possible curriculum connections: artists, quilters, women's history, and the Civil War.

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