Sunday, March 4, 2012
Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
Leaving Gee’s Bend by Irene Latham
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010
Alabama Library Association's 2011 Children's Book Award
Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year, 2011
There is only one road out of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Ten year-old Ludelphia Bennett travels it for the first time, leaving the safety of her sharecropper home for the white man’s world to find a doctor for her dying mother. Only her needle and the pieces of cloth that will tell her own story go with her.
I love this story based on an historical event in Gee’s Bend. Author Irene Latham has pieced together snippets of the real event and the region’s now recognized unique style of quilting. Here’s a short preview of the documentary The Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend.
Ludelphia’s character is unforgettable. Despite her fear of the unknown, she braves the river, escapes from the white woman who calls her a witch and returns to warn her neighbors that trouble is on the way. Along the way, she collects pieces of fabric that represent the new parts of her story so she can stitch hem into a quilt for her mother.
Leaving Gee’s Bend is a page-turning middle-grade book. Once Ludelphia leaves Gee’s Bend, we must go with her in her quest. Throughout the story, author Irene Latham has captured the dialect of a black child from Alabama in the 1930s with great sensitivity. The lyrical language pulls the reader forward.
Then I knotted the thread with my fingers and moved the needle in and out of them calico pieces from Mama’s apron. They was looking good in my quilt, just like I thought they would.
I’d need a plain piece of cloth next. Some solid color to set off the calico. Because my mama didn’t like no busy quilt. She liked there to be order enough to it so it didn’t hurt your eyes when you looked at it.
Latham writes scenes where we agonize over Ludelphia’s mishaps and others in which we cheer as Ludelphia learns life lessons, some through quilting.
I knew what she was saying was true. But tears came into my eyes again anyhow. Wasn't nothing I needed that wasn't right here in Gee's Bend. And wasn't a thing that could happen that I wasn't strong enough to get through.
This would be the perfect book to accompany a quilting project. The Gee’s Bend quilts have been compared to art by Paul Klee and Matisse.
Visit author Irene Latham’s website
Award-Winning Book Challenge Status: 2 of 11