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A classic in every sense of the word
on May 27, 2002
Patricia Polacco's classic tale "The Keeping Quilt" manages to blend, in not all that many pages, family, love, tradition, the cycle of life, and the ebb and flow of events in one family which are anchored by just one thing: the family quilt.
Made by the immigrant great-grandmother and her quilting bee friends, the quilt is composed of scraps of fabric from little girls' dresses, the aprons of aunts, and so on. All come together to form a beautiful quilt which features dancing animals, swaying trees, and all manner of beautiful ornamentation.
The quilt serves variously as a quilt, a tent, a huppah at a wedding, a tablecloth, and so on. Polacco uses the same illustrative technique she employs in her wonderful "Betty Doll"--the quilt itself appears in multicolored beauty, while the rest of each picture is done in subtle and evocative pencil. Because of this simple visual choice, the quilt and its many permutations leap to the fore and become, essentially, the main character in a story filled with realistic and full-bodied people.
I have always liked the fact that Polacco doesn't draw pretty-pretty people. The little kids always look like regular little kids, with all the inherent awkwardness and realistic expressions (whether they be joyful or pouting or wondering), while the adults sometimes have worried or thoughtful expressions, bad posture, or wrinkles. Real life is going on here, and Polacco manages to capture it vividly.