From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—Blind in one eye and shouldering a fair share of work as part of a family of sharecroppers, 10-year-old Ludelphia Bennett is no stranger to hardship or determination. Though her small town of Gee's Bend is geographically isolated by the Alabama River, she sets off on her own to Camden, 40 miles away, to find a doctor for her sick mother. Constant throughout her arduous journey is a stitched-together fabric, and she both physically and mentally chronicles her experiences as she pieces a quilt together. This is the way Ludelphia tells her story, of seeing white people for the first time, of encountering kindness and hate, and it is also the way Latham pays homage to the community spirit that historically fostered a heritage of artisan quilt-makers. While there is a bit of a reliance on coincidence, what shines through is the characterization and sense of place. Rural Alabama of 1932 is brought to life, complete with characters' prejudices and superstitions that are eventually overcome thanks to Ludelphia's indomitable strength. Here is a story that is comforting and warm, just like the quilts that make Gee's Bend famous.—Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library
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In Gee’s Bend, Alabama in 1932, 10-year-old Ludelphia’s mother nearly dies giving birth. Ludelphia takes off downriver to find a doctor in the town of Camden, 40 miles away, and in her first journey away from her tiny village, she encounters white people for the first time. The hardship of African American sharecropper families is always present in this stirring historical debut, and so is the rich sense of community in rough times, although that community does include sometimes malicious local gossip. Inspired by her mama, Ludelphia stitches together a quilt that tells her story, and that intricate process of quilt making sometimes becomes a too-heavy metaphor. Still, Ludelphia’s voice is authentic and memorable, and Latham captures the tension of her dangerous journey and the racism she encounters when a white, mentally disturbed landowner’s widow takes everything from the sharecroppers as repayment for their debt. In a final note, Latham talks about the history of Gee’s Bend and its rich quilting traditions. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman