I’m typing this up rather late! That’s because I just got back from Massachusetts, vacationing in this cozy beach cabin with a few friends.
Yes! Beach time!
While I was at the beach I brought with me my notebook and began jotting down a few picture books that I thought would be a good idea for this blog. Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist is today’s review! Below I’ll post what I had originally written for Kidlit, but beyond that is my personal opinion of Herbert’s work, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, which is to the point.
During the time when African American slaves were forbidden to read or write, pictures were the key to recording the stories verbally told late into the night. Herbert takes the readers through the struggle of sewing out of slavery and into freedom with facts about Powers’ life and her importance as an artist in this picture book biography. The charmingly large amount of color, pattern, and digital collage in Brantley-Newton’s illustrations show the spirit of the patterned fabric, though in some instances the images are cut off by the edge of the page making the page layouts seem slightly amatuer. There are small facts about Powers included within little fabric squares on each page that almost distract from the story itself, but despite these distractions, Powers’ life is lovingly told by Herbert. Most Love in All the World by Tonya Cherie Hegamin, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera is another book readers may be interested in. Cabrera has illustrated a few other books with a similar topic, such as Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Patricia C. McKissack. Herbert’s story is for ages 8 to 12.
BIBLO: 2015, Alfred A. Knoff/Random House LLC, Ages 8 to 12, $17.99FORMAT: Picture BookREVIEWER: Brittanny Handiboe, ISBN: 978-0-385-75463-7, ISBN: 978-0-385-75464-4, ISBN: 978-0-385-75462-0
Here’s the list that I complete before writing to sum it all up:
- Good-Importance of topic, African American slaves working their way toward freedom through art is an important topic.
- Bad-Too much information for a picture book; I would not want to read this over and over again as the important side facts take away from the story telling.
- Good-Illustrations are very colorful, draws the eye, patterns suit the topic. Interesting use of drawing/digital painting/photo collage.
- Bad-At times the anatomy was so off that as an artist/illustrator those badly drawn hands or faces were very distracting, however that could just be me as the illustrator talking.
- Good-Despite the overload of information in this PB I found it useful for a beginner, small, research project.
- Bad-The collage in the illustrations were interesting… but the overall effect made the illustrations seem a bit amateur, as I said in the review. Perhaps if the collages didn’t look so copy/paste it would’ve been less distracting. Again, my illustrator in me, with all the critiques I’ve had to suffer through haha, could not help but get distracted overall with the illustrations.
I give Herbert’s work an altogether a 6/10 for recommendation. If you are not as distracted by illustrations as I am, then I would recommend Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist.