Review of Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly Sews Her Way to Freedom

Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly Sews Her Way to Freedom
by Connie Schofield-Morrison; illus. by Elizabeth Zunon
Primary, Intermediate    Holiday    48 pp.    g
11/21    978-0-8234-3963-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5033-6    $11.99

Born into slavery, Elizabeth Keckly (sometimes spelled Keckley) followed in her mother’s footsteps as a seamstress and dressmaker, eventually earning the twelve hundred dollars she needed to buy her and her son’s freedom. One the eve of the Civil War she moved from St. Louis to Washington, where her work caught the attention of the wives of leaders on both sides of the growing conflict — Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis; Mary Anna Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee; and Mary Todd Lincoln. When Keckly’s party dress for Mrs. Lincoln was a success, she was commissioned to make at least fifteen more over the next couple of years. Schofield-Morrison’s (I Got the Christmas Spirit, rev. 11/18) text effectively combines a third-person narrative with italicized, unflinching first-person quotations drawn from Keckly’s memoir, Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. The refrain “stitch by stitch” runs throughout the text, a thread complemented by Zunon’s (I Am Farmer, rev. 1/19; Off to See the Sea, rev. 1/21) illustrations using a variety of media, including fabric, lace, ribbon, and appliqué. A handsome introduction to a remarkable woman and her craft. An author’s note and a bibliography are appended.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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