Pieces: A Year in Poems & Quilts

by Anna Grossnickle Hines

Anna Grossnickle Hines's Pieces: A Year in Poems & Quilts

Children's book review by Suzanne Edison.

Poetry and quilts that reflect seasonal changes

Ages 5+

I can’t imagine how I ever got to the words in this book.

The quilts grab the marquee; they’re the stars in this multi-layered work of art.

And yet, the poems are not only supporting actors. No wonder it won the Lee Bennett Hopkins award in 2002.

There are many times when the words and quilts burst out of their roles, exploding into something grander than either of them alone.

A good example of this is Good Heavens.

Our lawn is astronomical
with dandelion blooms.
A green sky filled
with a thousand suns
and then
a thousand moons
that with a puff
of wind become
a hundred thousand stars.

On top of a quilted background of greens are appliqués of yellow and white hexagons. The sky above it is redolent of dark blues and blacks dotted with white stars. Remember too, each piece of fabric used in quilting is itself patterned.

The relationship of each piece to one another creates a depth of field beyond two dimensions. When you add the words, these works of art bloom into 4 dimensions, where the 4th is what your mind brings to the experience. I can almost smell the dandelions and feel their fluff as I watch the seeds spin on the wind.

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Each page seems more rich and amazing than the last and you will struggle to decide on a favorite. The simplicity of form and reduced palette of Winter Sunshine is another strong contender for my first place.

Today it is December.
Time for winter weather
and the air is frosty chilly,
No one told the rosebush
and it has two yellow blossoms,
two spots of sunshine
to warm away the cold.

(In the temperate Pacific Northwest we really can have roses in December!)

The words float among the triangular pieces of yellow on the left hand side of the book like the winter sun, low against a field of snow or clouds. As if looking down from above, two yellow roses rise out of the black/white/grey field on the right side.

Sometimes two poems share a quilt like Silhouettes and Shadows, one on either side of the open book. The words of each poem explicate much of what we see in the quilt picture, but there’s a little twist of humor at the end of Shadows that is separate from the visuals, giving the whole work another layer, again that 4th dimension of interaction.

This book works on many levels for children ages 5-11. When I used it to teach a class of 1st and 2nd graders, they insisted on adding drawings to their poems.

Adults will thoroughly enjoy the artistry of this book and how Pieces: A Year in Poems & Quilts adds up to so much more than its pieces.

More books about the seasons.

More poetry for kids.

Read more of Suzanne's reviews.

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