Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

The Quiltmaker’s Journey

Ear­li­er this week I pulled out our small stash of Thanks­giv­ing pic­ture books. The kids are old­er now, but they seem to like it when the old favorites come out. I got lost, as I always do, in The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brum­beau, illus­trat­ed by Gail de Mar­ck­en. I’ve writ­ten about that book for Red Read­ing Boots—you can find that here.

I went in search of its com­pan­ion, The Quilt­mak­ers Jour­ney, which wasn’t with the Thanks­giv­ing books for some rea­son. Found it—and lost myself in it, as well. It’s a pre­quel, real­ly. Explains how the Quilt­mak­er came by her val­ues of gen­eros­i­ty, beau­ty, and love of peo­ple, not things.

When the Quilt­mak­er was a young girl, she lived a mate­ri­al­ly advan­taged and priv­i­leged life.  Because every­one in her town was rich, the girl assumed every­one in the world was. This was by design, we learn. A wall had been built—a stone wall, thick and high—around the town. The chil­dren in the town nev­er saw what was out­side, but they were warned by their elders that hor­ri­ble, ter­ri­ble things were on the oth­er side of the wall….

When I read this in sto­ry­time to kids, you can see them imag­in­ing what’s on the oth­er side of the wall. Their sweet faces morph into trou­bled ones—brows fur­row, eyes wor­ry, thumbs and fin­gers trav­el to their mouths…. Which is exact­ly what hap­pened to the chil­dren in the town. And so they under­stand­ably stay inside the wall where every­thing and more was pro­vid­ed and where an obscene abun­dance reigned; but not, we learn, the assumed hap­pi­ness that would come from such lux­u­ry.… Our young hero­ine grows rest­less!

The girl who becomes the quilt­mak­er goes out, of course—beyond the wall—that’s the main sto­ry. And she learns that the ter­rors on the oth­er side of the wall are noth­ing like what she’d imag­ined. No mon­sters or ghouls, witch­es or drag­ons. Rather, extreme pover­ty. And though she sees the rav­ages of hunger and unhap­pi­ness, she also wit­ness­es extra­or­di­nary gen­eros­i­ty and kind­ness. She learns that it’s not the peo­ple who are fright­ful, but the cir­cum­stances in which they live.

When she returns to her life inside the wall and makes a plea before the town elders for their town to help those who are out­side the wall…she faces resis­tance. Ignore the poor, she’s told. “If they want­ed to be rich, they shouldn’t have been born poor.”

This does not sit well with the girl who has now had her eyes, ears, and heart opened. She’s been out­side the wall—she knows things the elders do not. She leaves her life of com­fort and makes a new life out­side the wall as she strug­gles to fig­ure out what her gift to the world will be. Even­tu­al­ly, she sells the ring her moth­er gave her to buy bright cloth and thread…and she uses the skills bequeathed to her by the kind old seam­stress who sewed her gowns when she was a child…and she makes quilts. Thick and warm quilts. Beau­ti­ful quilts. Beau­ti­ful, warm quilts she gives, not sells, to those who need them most.

The Quiltmaker’s Jour­ney takes longer to read than many pic­ture books, but her jour­ney is an impor­tant one. Try read­ing the book dur­ing your Thanks­giv­ing fes­tiv­i­ties this week­end. It will not dis­ap­point. It’s an inspir­ing way to begin this sea­son of hol­i­days.

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