cover image THE PATCHWORK PATH: A Quilt Map to Freedom

THE PATCHWORK PATH: A Quilt Map to Freedom

Bettye Stroud, , illus. by Erin Susanne Bennett. . Candlewick, , 15.99 (32p) ISBN (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2423-1

Stroud's (Down Home at Miss Dessa's ) affecting story of Hannah, a slave on a Georgia plantation, is inspired by the actual use of quilts as a means of communication on the Underground Railroad. Hannah explains that when she was 10, as she and her mother stitched a quilt using pieces of cloth of various designs, Mama told her the "special meaning" of each pattern. After the girl's sister is sold off to another plantation, Mama passes away ("Papa said it was her heart that broke"). One stormy night, Hannah and her father steal away from the plantation and rely on the code hidden in the quilt to find their way to Canada. On their journey, the two hide beneath the floorboards in a church, follow a tunnel leading from there to a river, take refuge with a Quaker couple and, using signals incorporated in the quilt, meet up with a riverboat captain who transports them across Lake Erie to freedom. All the while, Hannah hugs the quilt and often thinks of her mother and sister. The child's candid first-person narrative captures her apprehension as well as her hope and determination. Newcomer Bennett contributes dramatic oil paintings in an earth-toned palette. Her almost geometric renderings can be off-putting in close-ups of the characters, but her style is ideally suited to the full-spread compositions and the quilt patterns themselves. Ages 5-8. (Jan.)