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Sewing stories : Harriet Powers' journey from slave to artist
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Author Notes
Barbara Herkert has been creating stories since the first grade and is also the author of Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter . She received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University and studied art and art history at Oregon State University. She now lives on the Oregon coast with her family and spends time in a log house near Bend, Oregon. You can learn more about Barbara and her books at<br>  <br> Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter who studied fashion illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology and children's book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of Let Freedom Sing and Don't Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table and has illustrated numerous children's books, including One Love and Every Little Thing , words by Bob & Cedella Marley, and Presenting Tallulah by Tori Spelling. Vanessa currently makes her nest in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, daughter, and a very rambunctious cat named Stripes. Learn more about Vanessa and her artwork at
Fiction/Biography Profile
Harriet Powers (),
Civil war
African Americans
Folk art
Life changes
Georgia - South (U.S.)
Time Period
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Publishers Weekly Review

Born into slavery on a Georgia plantation, Harriet Powers learned to quilt from a young age, developing into a skilled artist. Brantley-Newton's collages incorporate photographic snippets of burlap, cotton, and other textiles, while Herkert ably places Powers's life in historical context, as she was eventually forced to sell the two "story quilts" she created in order to make ends meet after the Civil War. The quilts themselves (which now hang in museums) get large-scale reproductions on the endpapers, as well as numbered explanations of the biblical and real-life events reflected within their panels. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. Illustrator's agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-This picture book biography introduces readers to Harriet Powers, an African American artist who grew up as a slave and was freed by the end of the Civil War. As a young girl on a Georgia plantation, she learned how to make cloth, dye it using natural colorings, and make quilts with appliqué designs stitched on fabric. Powers married and became a wife and mother of five, using her skills as a quilter to help support her family. The story is told in a folksy, conversational tone. Multiple text boxes provide additional information in a clear, direct style, supporting the main text. Upbeat and cheerful, the mixed-media illustrations (a combination of digital art and gouache) present Powers in a positive light and provide details of her daily life. The endpapers feature reproductions of Powers's two existing quilts, and back matter includes an author's note, a photograph of the artist, and an explanation of each of the story quilts. Overall, this is an illuminating introduction to a largely unknown artist. However, teachers and librarians should be aware that there is a considerable amount of fictionalized dialogue: no sources are provided for the quotes from the subject. VERDICT Despite some limitations, this is a much-needed introduction to the life of a little known African American artist, with many possible curriculum connections: artists, quilters, women's history, and the Civil War.-Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
An illuminating picture book biography of an artist and former slave whose patchwork quilts bring the stories of her family to life. <br> <br> Harriet Powers learned to sew and quilt as a young slave girl on a Georgia plantation. She lived through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and eventually owned a cotton farm with her family, all the while relying on her skills with the needle to clothe and feed her children.<br>  <br> Later she began making pictorial quilts, using each square to illustrate Bible stories and local legends. She exhibited her quilts at local cotton fairs, and though she never traveled outside of Georgia, her quilts are now priceless examples of African American folk art.<br>  <br> Barbara Herkert's lyrical narrative and Vanessa Newton's patchwork illustrations bring this important artist to life in a moving picture-book biography.
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