Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Non-Fiction Stories - People & Food!

              To link up with Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy means lots of learning comes along through reading and discovering amazing and creative picture books written about real people and things. Check everyone's posts to find new books that will delight and inform.    

           Here are two stories about beautiful people, once again that few of us have heard about! And one n-f poetry book, one you will want to have when studying healthy eating, and when writing poetry!

        Another story new that is finally told, this time about a baby named Harriet Angeline Powers born to slavery, spending her baby days lying on a quilt while her mama worked in the cotton fields. The narrative tells her story while on each page there is further explanation in a brief paragraph. Can you imagine such a life taking care of a baby while working hard up and down those rows? Harriet grew up learning about textiles by watching slave women spin, dye and weave so they could make textiles for the plantation.
         When she grew older, Harriet helped stuff cotton filling into the quilts. The work was all done at night; days were for work in the fields. Harriet was freed after the Civil War. She married and she and her husband bought some land outside Atlanta. They were poor, and Harriet made extra money sewing. One year there was announced a cotton fair and Harriet decided to enter a quilt in the craft exhibit. She worked hours on that quilt, a “story quilt” which told Bible stories heard as a child. Eventually, through need, she sold it for five dollars to a  Miss Smith. Fortunately, Miss Smith took notes from Harriet about the stories set in each part of the quilt. That quilt is now hanging in the National Museum of American History. A second quilt hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Harriet is described as one whose “artistic vision was vast”, her style compared to the impressionists. She was never rich and lived most of her life in poverty. The inside covers show parts of these famous, gorgeous quilts.

         But now we will remember Harriet Angeline Powers and her artistic gifts.
There is further information at the back, along with the one photo of Harriet ever taken, and the stories told in the quilts.

           Stephen Bishop, slave-explorer, tells his own story in this gorgeous book illustrated by Bryan Collier. In full double-page spreads, Collier shows the beauty of Bishop’s life. When he was young, Stephen’s master took him to this cave and told him it was his job to learn the cave so he could take tourists into it. Without much written about this man, Heather Henson gives him a strong voice and a poetic one, much taken from people who visited the cave and spoke of the eloquence and knowledge of their guide. The part of the story that is so inspiring is when Stephen’s tourists wanted to leave their “mark” in this wondrous place, Mammoth Cave. He showed them how to burn a mark with a candle and while watching them leave those letters, he taught himself how to read and write. There one can find the name Stephen and his wife’s name, Charlotte, placed with all the others. He, through Heather’s writing, gives a most poignant statement: “A man--down here, that’s what I am--a man, not just a slave.” And at the end: “The journey back is dark and winding. And sometimes you just got to lift your light a little higher; sometimes you just got to go beyond what’s written down to get to what’s been left untold.”

         There is an author’s and an illustrator’s note, plus a source list.

            There's loads of information in this book about healthy eating, each page with a haiku and a long paragraph explaining the concept introduced by the haiku, like "colorful fruits" and "why to eat vegetables." The illustrations are full-color pages full of action and smiles. I'm not sure of the audience, however. The pictures are cute young children, but it feels to me like the explanations given are more complex and aimed at older readers. So it's for a quite mixed audience. There is additional information about healthy eating at the back and a glossary. A favorite page is about grains. The haiku: How tall the corn grows!/Reaching up toward the sun./talking to scarecrows." And a young boy and his dog are smiling at a scarecrow, by a cornfield! Grace Lin is clever in her wording, and the book is bright and colorful, inviting. 


  1. I've seen Sewing Stories mentioned a few times, I need to look for it.
    That's interesting about Our Food... does seem like a mixed audience...

    1. I enjoyed everything about Our Food, great information, and perhaps it was the illustrations that gave a younger feel. Sewing Stories is nice, and poignant, too. Thanks, Michele.

  2. I hadn't realized Sewing Stories was about a quilt in the National Museum of History. It would be fascinating to read it to kids alongside a biography of a more traditional artist--maybe Monet Paints a Day--and have a discussion about how we, as a society decide what belongs in museums.

    1. Good idea, Annette. There are some gorgeous Native American quilts in our Denver Art Museum, so I could connect there too. Thanks.

  3. I'm definitely going to pick up Sewing Stories, Linda. There was an exhibition of Gee's Bend quilts here in Maryland a few years ago. I'm so glad I got to see them in person.


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