The Quilt Story By Tony Johnston (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1985. 28. pp.)
In warm poetic text, this book recounts the life of an heirloom quilt. It also tells of two little girls who, though separated by generations, were united in the comfort of the same quilt. It is a different “take” on a similar theme to that of The Keeping Quilt and may be read before or after that story. The two stories together might be the basis for a “Quilt” unit.
Before Reading The Quilt Story
· Ask the children if their family (or someone they know) owns something that has been passed down from generation to generation. Remind the children that such an heirloom need not be expensive, but it does need to hold special meaning to the people who keep it. Tell the children that The Quilt Story is about such an heirloom. Ask the children to listen carefully to see if they can decide why the heirloom is so special to the characters in the story.
After Reading The Quilt Story
· Ask the children to describe the quilts they may have seen. Show the children pictures of different types of popular quilt patterns (featured today even in mail order catalogs). (If the children have already read The Keeping Quilt, this may be unnecessary.) Tell the children that quilting is now considered an American folk art, but that the pioneer women who first sewed quilts did so to make the most of fabric scraps (note the old socks sewn into the quilt in The Quilt Story), and to bring warmth and color to their sparse, plain homes and rough lives. Ask the children to list all the ways that Abigail used the quilt. How many of the children in class have a favorite blanket or soft toy from their own childhood? Would these possessions make for good heirlooms? Do children of other cultures have favorite toys or possessions? How can the children find out this information?
American Folk Toys
Secure a copy of The Foxfire Book of Toys and Games (E. P. Dutton, 1985), or any other book featuring a collection of American folk toys and games. Show your class the pictures of the toys which date back more than 200 years to colonial days (and beyond!). Have the class decide how their modern toys are similar to or different from the folk toys (which have no batteries, no electricity, few moving parts and are for the most part homemade). Have the children interview their parents and grandparents to discover what kinds of toys they played with. Did they, too, have a special blanket or toy that they played with for a long time? Were their toys (or blankets or clothes) ever homemade?
Folk Art Museum
Have children assemble a folk art museum by bringing in to school items reminiscent of colonial times. These may include quilts, toys, jewelry, pictures, tools, gadgets, knick-knacks, etc. (Because of the recent interest in using American folk art for decorating our modern homes, it should not be difficult to gather a collection together.) Label and display the pieces together in a central place for the whole school to enjoy. For more information on quilting, toy making, and colonial times, see Colonial America (Cooperative Learning Activities) by Sue Schneck and Mary Strohl (Scholastic, 1991).