Favorite Childhood Book
I've always had a connection to the written word, a trait I inherited from my father, who in his retirement spent so much time in his chair reading, that he finally had to cancel his new subscription to the New York times because he wasn't able to pull himself away long enough to get his other tasks done.
I still count seeing an original Gutenberg Bible as one of the great highlights of my life - both thrilling and touching to know the immensity of the invention of the printing press and one of the books that began a new era of knowledge in the world.
So it should come as no surprise that picking my favorite childhood book was a bit of a challenge. And to say that this one book is my favorite, isn't really a fair assessment. There are many others: A New Coat for Anna, Bony Legs, The Mitten, Amelia Badelia, Mrs. Katz and Tush, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Molly's Pilgrim and so many more that mean something to me.
But I decided to pick The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. The story tracks the generations of Patricia's family from when they first come to America from Russia, through the creation and passing down of a quilt that was made with her grandmother's dress and babushka and the fabric from the clothing of people they had left behind in Russia. Through this keeping quilt, we see the story of Patricia's family, the precious moments of births, weddings, childhood play, and death. We see the passing down of traditions and the way traditions change over time to befit who we have become and the way society has changed. At it's core, the story is a reminder of family - it honors the way we are connected and cherishes the connection to our past and future.
I love the way Patricia Polacco's stories do justice to her Jewish Russian roots by telling stories that are interlaced with cultural traditions that are often forgotten in American society. Her illustrations, too are a stunning and full of warmth and character.
The Keeping Quilt is the kind of book that is as timeless as the American experience itself. We all have our keeping quilts - whether we are connected to our families or not. They are the traditions, either passed down or discovered that remind us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. That by embracing traditions and creating new ones, we are remembering those who came before us and we are creating the new world for the next generation. That's why we connect to history and cultures: we are being drawn to the people of the past who have left a bit of themselves behind in us and for us. And for some of us, if we're lucky, we have tokens like Patricia's keeping quilt to hold close to and to remind us of our connection to another time and our connection to each other.