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Quilt of States: Piecing Together America
Author: Adrienne Yorinks and 50 Librarians
from Across the Nation
Pages: 128
Publisher/Date: National Geographic/2005
ISBN: 0792272854
Age Levels: 9 and up

Book Review

Author Adrienne Yorinks and fifty librarians across the United States have stitched together an exquisite, exceptional creation.

The book begins with an historical introduction. After briefly chronicling the arrival of the first Europeans up to the creation of the U.S. Constitution, Yorinks notes, "[E]ventually, all 13 former Colonies ratified the Constitution and joined a new nation. It would take more than 170 years from the creation of the first state for the U.S. to become the 50 states that it is today. Every state has had its own unique path to statehood. This is their story."

Each state is given its own double-page spread, beginning with the "First State," Delaware, and ending with the "Aloha State," Hawaii. Each spread features a colorful, illustrative quilt piece created by Ms. Yorinks as well as a brief state history written by a librarian from that particular state.

Readers will find appended four pages of state facts and an index. In the author/illustrator’s note, Ms. Yorinks writes, "My goal was to create something special, something truly unique." In that she has succeed spectacularly! This is not just a book, but a work of art that is sure to become a classroom classic.

A definite "must-have." Suitable for district-wide purchase.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2005 Education Oasis http://www.educationoasis.com


About the Author

Adrienne Yorinks has illustrated several books for children and adults with her award-winning quilts. Her textile art appears in many private and public collections throughout the United States and around the world. In addition to her illustration work, Ms. Yorinks designs fabric for the quilting world. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two stepchildren, and two red poodles.

Resources

Ms. Yorinks has created a lesson plan, "Creating a Geographical Fabric Collage," to accompany this book.
Go here to see the plan.

A Note from the Author/Illustrator

I loved the idea of writing and illustrating a book about The United States, and I loved the process, too. My goal was to create something special, something truly unique. I hoped to stitch together America chronologically, from Delaware—the first state admitted to the Union—to Hawaii—the last state admitted. I love shapes of all kinds and I was curious to see myself just how the U.S. developed; how it actually looked at different periods of time. Can you even imagine what it felt like to be part of the new United States when there were only 13 states?

When I thought about the text for the book, I realized I wanted each state to be written by a librarian from that state. That way, there would be 50 different voices to express at least some of the diversity of our country. This was important to me because history reflects the point of view of the person who has lived it or the person who retells it. This could best be accomplished by a person from each state. I chose librarians because of my deep respect for them, that they have access to a lot of excellent reference books, and most of all, because they are smart! We asked each librarian to write about why their homes decided to become a state—the political, social, or economic issues at the time which led to the desire to be admitted to the Union.

As an artist, my medium is quilts or textile art. Quilt illustration is a perfect match for a book on the United States. Not only because quilting is one of only two art forms that are uniquely American (jazz is the other), but because the U.S. came together much like a quilt does—piece by piece.

I love my medium. As a painter’s palette contains all the colors of the rainbow, a quilter’s palette contains all the colors of the rainbow plus thousands of designs from thousands of fabric artists. Fabric is my palette and I cannot tell you how much I love it or how much fabric I own. I even design fabric for a fabric company in New York City.

In this book, there is a unique piece of quilt art for each state. To speak to our country’s rich history of folk art, I strived to create a folk art feel for the book, using motifs of varying sizes to create a whimsical quality. Sometimes, you will see a very large cow and a small ear of corn. Other states have a huge ear of corn and perhaps small tomatoes. Visually, I find this exciting. The quality of unexpectedness jars the brain and helps us to remember the nuances of each piece of textile art that reflects each state. When a page is turned, I want each state to have a special moment, whether it strikes you, the reader, as amusing or colorful or exciting, hopefully something will capture or delight you about that particular state.

One of my goals in the illustrations for the fifty states was never to repeat a fabric motif. That means every cow, ear of corn, and pig in this book is different! I have thousands of pieces of fabric in my "stash" containing hundreds of "conversational prints." Conversational prints are any fabrics that depict objects other than flowers. Fabric depicting flowers are called florals. In each illustration, there is a floral from The State Flower Collection, so each state fabric is incorporated somewhere on the textile art for that state. (Some of the florals are repeated because there are several states that have named the same flower for their state.) The conversational prints I used in this book depict artichokes, wheat, beets, tomatoes, and any other objects I could find to describe the important elements that make up each state. Not every state was easy. I read many different atlases about the United States to see if they had just one other important product I could find fabric for. I am very delighted about the artichoke fabric I found for California because when I was there last year with my husband, backpacking in northern California, I passed "artichoke country!" I also enjoyed finding the pineapple motif for Hawaii. I went through several pieces of fabric that had pineapples depicted on it, to find the perfect one. Finding interesting cows cannot be excluded. You have to admit that we have a lot of cows in this country. Thank goodness there are a lot of fabric designers who love to draw them!

We could all be better at geography in this country. I hoped with A Quilt of States that the shapes of the each state, because they are in fabric adding dimension and texture, would add resonance and help us all to remember how each state looks. When a map of Idaho, for example, is flashed on the news, wouldn’t it be great to know it was Idaho before the announcer spoke? I had this experience myself after illustrating The Alphabet Atlas which contained maps of countries. One day, while I was in the gym, the television flashed a map of Japan on the screen. I knew from across the room what they were speaking about because I had worked on a piece of textile art for Japan cutting out the template and remembering its beautiful shape and contours.

To work on a book about the United States may sound a bit daunting. At times it was—but it also was a tremendous amount of fun.

Adrienne Yorinks