Literature Annotations


Polacco, Patricia
The Keeping Quilt


Genre Children's Literature (31 pp.)
KeywordsAcculturation, Aging, Children, Communication, Death and Dying, Family Relationships, Grief, Illness and the Family, Memory, Mother-Daughter Relationship, Ordinary Life, Religion, Spirituality, Time
Summary

The only tangible remnants of Young Anna’s ethnic heritage were her dress and babushka made from the garments Great-Gramma Anna had worn when she came to America. Outgrown, they become the border of a quilt that neighborhood women sew together from scraps of other old family clothing to help them always remember back-home Russia. Used as the Sabbath tablecloth, the huppa (marriage canopy), and as a blanket to wrap the newborns in and to warm the sick and dying, the quilt gets passed down from mother to daughter for four generations.

Commentary

Used to celebrate births, weddings, birthdays and death, the babushka, dress and heirloom quilt--the only colored objects in this very detailed and imaginative self-illustrated picture book--are symbols of the importance of family ties and traditions. The black and white drawings of children dressed differently, whispering and teasing, begin to define the assimilation process. Changing fashion and wedding customs such as men and women dancing separately and then together; adding a sprinkle of wine to the traditional gold coin, bread and salt of the wedding bouquet; and the mention of the presence of non-Jewish friends "for the first time" affirm the importance of ritual as they portray the changing customs and folklore over time.

The activities and spirited involvement of community play a major role in creating the joyous tone of the story and form an interesting contrast with the backdrops of seasons, nature, and changing landscapes found in Titian’s Three Ages of Man, or with Munch’s eerie The Dance of Life (see art annotations in this database).

The Faces of AIDS: An AIDS Quilt, created by physician-artist Wilma Bulkin Siegel, painted portraits of patients "to give them comfort and hope as well as dignity and long-lasting identity on paper" (see Grief and the Healing Arts: Creativity as Therapy, ed. Sandra L. Bertman, Baywood, Amityville, NY, 1999, p. 95, detail 21). Her quilt is bordered by hundreds of AIDS ribbons. The film, Common Threads (see this database), uses panels from the original 14-acre AIDS quilt on the Washington Mall to memorialize those who died in the first decade of AIDS in the United States.

As with another children’s book, Annie and the Old One (see this database), cherished relationships and possessions as symbols of continuity and solace, biologic immortality (living on through one’s family, tribe or culture), and the richness of diversity, are reasons enough to recommend this book to readers of all ages.

PublisherSimon & Schuster
Edition1988
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousThis self-illustrated picture book received the 1989 Sydney Taylor Award.
Annotated by Bertman, Sandra L.
Date of Entry 02/12/01
Last Revised 08/29/06