Jeff Brumbeau's The Quiltmaker's Gift
Illustrated by Gail de Marcken
Children's book review by Suzanne Holland
The Quiltmaker’s Gift is a wonderful addition to any fable or folk tale collection.
There seems to be a definition overlap between fable and folk tales. Both traditions impart a moral at the conclusion of the story. Fables more often have animal characters who perform human tasks and who speak. Folk tales are often based on oral stories passed down to generations.
Regardless of the category, The Quiltmaker's Gift is a thoroughly charming and visually stunning book. It is a bit longer than the average picture book, which makes it perfect for a read aloud to a wider age audience.
The story opens with our old quiltmaker, a woman of indeterminate age with an incredible gift of creating the most beautiful quilts anyone had ever seen. Indeed, the villagers claimed that magic must be woven with the quilts since the colors seemed plucked from nature itself.
The oddest part of her talent, however, was her refusal to accept payment for the quilts. She refused all money and instead would give the quilts only to those who really needed them. She would wander the town finding a shivering homeless person, and gladly give the quilt to them. Then, she would begin the process all over again.
Certainly, even this early in the story one can make a case for a moral being to share one’s talents and to give freely to those in need.
All good stories need an antagonist and we have one here in the figure of a selfish king.
This mighty and wealthy king was among the greediest of the greedy! He was so greedy he ruled he would have two birthdays a year!!
Over many years he had sent his soldiers to retrieve only the rarest and finest treasures from around the world. He was sure that once he had accumulated all these treasures he would be the happiest man in the world.
You can see where this is going! Naturally, he wanted one of the magnificent quilts but our quiltmaker refused.
“Only when you have given away all your treasures will I give a quilt to you,” she declared. The king was outraged and tried many tactics to change her mind. These are not too scary for young listeners.
Finally, the king grudgingly agrees to give away his possessions, starting with the most insignificant thing in his collection. (I can almost hear the voice (“Oh, well, if I have to”)!
Item by item the king disposed of the world’s finest treasures. Paupers were suddenly clothed in velvets, and children had magical toys. Gradually, the king began to smile, and to be happy!!
With each item the king gave away, the old woman added a piece to his quilt. The process took years, but at last, the king was done. Threadbare himself, and left with no possessions, he was nonetheless the happiest (and richest) man on earth.
The quiltmaker's gift was delivered as promised and the pair joined forces to comfort and provide for the poor of the village.
The messages of true happiness and kindness’ rewards are obvious but children will have a good time reflecting on this. They seem to enjoy the childish behavior of the king and naturally are fascinated by the quilts.
The Quiltmaker's Gift is unique in many ways. The illustrations are incredibly detailed and clues to the story are woven in the quilts themselves. The back page lists websites one may go to for activities and information.
Brumbeau and de Marcken put their money where their morals are and donate a portion of proceeds to projects that showcase generosity.
The Quiltmaker's Gift is worthy of any home library!
Webmaster's note: Kings! Fabrics! If you're in the mood for more, read The Emperor's New Clothes right here on this site. Then, after you do, share with everyone the moral you would give to the story.
Read more of Suzanne's reviews.
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