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The Quilts of Gee's Bend Hardcover – Picture Book, June 13, 2017

4.8 out of 5 stars 138 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up—A quilt "represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could say it represents family history." In this handsomely designed volume, Rubin shares the history of the Gee's Bend families, who, for more than 100 years, have been designing and creating bold and brilliant quilts. From 1845, when plantation owner Mark Pettway and his household settled in Alabama, to the present, African American women in this rural village have been piecing together scraps of fabric salvaged from old clothes, flour sacks, or corduroy pillow covers, while their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters have watched and learned. Through the years, as they endured and eventually rose above abject poverty, back-breaking work, and inequality, the women continually found community in picking up their needles to help one another sew quilts to keep their families warm. As they witnessed tumultuous moments in history, from the Civil War and the Great Depression to the civil rights movement, the quilters were eventually recognized for their artistry by the outside world. Rubin captures the voices of the inhabitants of Gee's Bend, weaving quotes and memories of current residents throughout the engaging narrative. Vibrant photos of the most striking quilts and archival images complement the text. In the spirit of passing on the tradition, simple instructions for making a quilt square appear at the end of the book. VERDICT Combining history, memoir, and quilting, this fascinating portrait of an indomitable community will appeal to readers, artists, and crafters of all ages.—Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston


"A handsome volume to enchant a new generation of readers and artists." ― Kirkus

"Combining history, memoir, and quilting, this fascinating portrait of an indomitable community will appeal to readers, artists, and crafters of all ages." ― School Library Journal

"Writing with awareness of broad social forces as they affected the residents of Gee’s Bend, Rubin offers a concise account of local history while seamlessly weaving quilters’ reminiscences of family, community, poverty, and memorable events into an informative narrative. . . A colorful introduction to a uniquely American subject."
  ― Booklist

"A celebration of fellowship and ingenuity...Rubin traces the quilters’ history alongside their struggle for civil rights and a steadily improving quality of life." ― Publishers Weekly

"Lush photographs of people and places accompany the text; especially beautiful are the many pictures
of quilts, ranging from the modest and plain to the boldly colorful." ― The Horn Book

"...the vibrant quilts and their proud creators are beautifully photographed, and the text is free of any trace of condescension that often accompanies discussion of folk art." ― Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Abrams Books for Young Readers; Illustrated edition (June 13, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 56 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1419721313
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1419721311
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 8 - 12 years
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 970L
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 3 - 7
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.39 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 10 x 0.65 x 10 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 138 ratings

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Susan Goldman Rubin grew up in the Bronx and dreamed of becoming an artist. She illustrated her first three picture books but then turned to writing nonfiction, mainly about art and history, and is the author of more than 55 books for young people. Her titles include Diego Rivera: An Artist For The People, They Call Me A Hero: A Memoir of My Youth, Music Was It! Young Leonard Bernstein, Everyone Paints! The Art and Lives of the Wyeth Family, and Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi.

Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
138 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on August 19, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing discovery of art, community and history
By Maurice Williams on August 19, 2019
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend exemplifies the artistry that often is the byproduct of necessity. Spawned by the need for warmth against the drafty walls and floors of the log cabins that housed them is a collection of quilts – abstract art pieces really – that has gained worldwide acclaim for their beauty and the remarkable stories of the women who created them. A personal quilting journey (is that even a thing?) led me to this book and began with the childhood re-memory of my family – aunts, uncle, cousins – quilting in the dinning room of a relative’s apartment. At the age of eight or nine, my cousins and I were tasked with ripping old clothes that served as fabric for the quilts while grown-folks pieced and placed the scraps into patterns from which would emerge the beginnings of a quilt. Most of the quilting generation has passed on, along with the tradition of quilting in the family.

The memory of my family’s quilting has been in playback mode for most of the year - day dreams and night, in meetings and in transit - random scenes of quilting and the grown-folk conversations that accompanied it seemed forever present. While chaperoning a field trip for my grandson during Black History Month a film about a little girl whose enslaved grandmother gave her a scrap of fabric was shown. The little girl was to take the scrap with her when she was sold to another plantation. That scrap became part of a quilt that became part of a tradition that was passed down generation to generation. The importance of quilts as aids for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad was also featured as part of the kid’s field trip.

For months it seemed that I was having near daily encounters with some aspect of quilting; soon the coincidences became quite clear – the tradition of quilting in my family needed to be resurrected, the ancestors were telling me so. Having never stitched more than a button or a hem (thanks mom for laying the ground work 😊); I began my first project with a call out for help and my village of family and friends came to the rescue. I started with a set of rules:

• I would make the quilt entirely by hand as did enslaved ancestors; they did not use sewing machines and neither would I
• The quilt would be made with old clothes, fabric scraps and rags contributed by family and friends
• The only newly purchased items would be a ruler, cutting mat, a cutter and wood for the hand-crafted quilting frame to be made by a great friend who can build just about anything. Everything else needed for the making of the quilt would have to be used and/or donated by the village.

The project rapidly became obsession, perhaps possession. Four months, four quilting cocktail parties, one thousand seventy-five yards of thread, two numb finger tips, multiple late nights/early mornings and countless YouTube videos produced my first quilt, titled: Crazy Obsession; in homage to the ancestors and bestowed upon my four-year-old granddaughter who will be moving to another state.

This entire quilting experience has been incredible! Motivated by a disappearing family tradition that yearned for resurrection, supported by a community of friends and family and inspired by The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, I was able to accomplish what started out as a very daunting task. I’m hooked and looking forward to my next project, an ode of sorts to the phenomenal women of Gee’s Bend; their stories are indeed highly recommended!
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Top reviews from other countries

3.0 out of 5 stars Short History
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 25, 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book in very good condition , excellent service
Reviewed in Canada on May 1, 2021
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Geneva biggers
5.0 out of 5 stars Quilting
Reviewed in Canada on December 4, 2019
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Liane Mox
5.0 out of 5 stars Beau livre
Reviewed in France on October 28, 2020
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