For this week’s “Free Friday” blog post, I just had to pick The Quilt written and illustrated by Ann Jonas in 1984. I stumbled across this book at the library the other day and was instantly drawn into its cover art, ultimately deeming this book a true classic.
The book’s quilted endpapers are the same fabric as the inside of the little girl’s own quilt—the book itself literally and figuratively cloaks the reader with the story, bringing them inside the girl’s world. The title page shows a sewing machine, which can bring up a discussion for readers about how the quilt itself was made.
The book’s language is very simple and straightforward—it starts with, “I have a new quilt.” The book is from the little girl’s perspective—she explains how her parents made the quilt for her, and introduces her stuffed animal Sally, inviting the reader inside her world. The story uses dramatic irony– at one point, the little girl can’t find the cloth used to make Sally, but Sally herself can as she’s right next to it, adding a playful element for the reader.
The simple and relatable language makes space for the illustrations to truly shine. Sparse, white backgrounds enable the quilt, the little girl, and her stuffed animal Sally to take the spotlight. Once the little girl brings the reader to her bed, through her bedroom window, we can see it getting darker and darker, as the room itself gets darker–can you find that fabric in the illustration below?
Then, throughout the night, the little girl imaginatively envisions her quilt as a magical little town with many different areas to explore. The story’s turning point occurs as the little girl can’t find Sally, who fell (or hopped?!) off the bed!
As she looks for Sally, the background becomes black and the little girl travels, in her imagination to many different places, all evoked with a variety of bright, contrasting colors. The little girl explores a circus, a neighborhood, a lake with boats and ducks, a forest, and more.
In the morning, as the sun is rising, the little girl sees Sally at the edge of a cliff (her bed!) and ends up on the ground with her: “Good morning, Sally.”
I absolutely love how we never learn the name of the child herself. This is a very realistic depiction of children as they don’t often go up to people and say “my name is ____,” unless they were scripted to do so. Children just start talking about their lives, through the lens of imagination, which is exactly what happens in this story.
Additionally, It is very important to represent the experiences of people of all colors in children’s literature—the little girl in this book is a person of color, which is another one of its qualities that drew me in. Although written by a white woman, the author doesn’t center the story around the little girl’s race as many white authors do in children’s books, seen in either their story or illustrations. Ultimately, this book is a great storytime treat for children of all ages—I even read this to a fourteen-year-old who absolutely loved it! Definitely pick this book up at the library if you see it, you won’t regret it!