Throughout April, I’m tackling 26 A to Z topics related to children’s literature. I’ve waited all month to make it to Q, just so I could share the best third-grade class project in history. I present to you a post about Mrs. Wilkinson’s kid lit quilt.
It’s a coincidence that the blue-and-white quilt I received last year ended up in my possession.
But I’m glad it did. It’s a treasure I’m happy to have.
The path to getting the quilt all began in Mrs. Wilkinson’s third-grade class. (There I am, in the middle of the third row.)
Each year, Mrs. Wilkinson had a literary art project for the class. Every student was given a square of white fabric. Our task was to choose a book, read it, and then illustrate a scene or symbol from the book on the cloth. The medium of illustration was our choice. Some of us used markers. Others used fabric paint. One ambitious artist even used a variety of materials to glue onto the cloth, such as feathers for a head dress and cotton ball clouds.
Once the artwork was finished, we turned in our squares for Mrs. Wilkinson to stitch into a checkerboard pattern of alternating illustrated squares and deep blue squares. The finished product featured a classic children’s library; our quilt featured titles like “Charlotte’s Web,” “Old Yeller,” Black Beauty” … one overachiever even illustrated “Moby Dick” (the Illustrated Classic version, not the unabridged behemoth).
(Incidentally, the “Moby Dick” artist was my goodnatured rival for being top student in the class. I spent 10 years of school competing with classmate Nick Madison for straight A’s. It lasted right up to high school graduation, in which we both were vying for valedictorian.)
By fourth grade, I had forgotten about the quilt. It remained with Mrs. Wilkinson, and other projects eventually engaged my attention.
Almost two decades later, my third-grade teacher happened to be on the library board at the same library where my sister worked. Their conversation turned to my children’s writing one day, and Mrs. Wilkinson mentioned to my sister that she still had the kid lit quilt my third-grade class created. She said since I was writing children’s books of my own now, perhaps I’d like to have the book-themed quilt my class created. She passed it along to my sister, who in turn passed it over to me.
Unfolding the quilt opened up a lot of memories. I remembered working on my “Charlotte’s Web” illustration. I agonized over how to draw a spider web, and I was devastated to discover another classmate selected the same book. (We were the only ones to duplicate a title … and I was horribly jealous to see her spider web was infinitely better than mine.) I remember making sure Templeton the rat was included in my drawing, because he was my favorite character.
Eventually my third-grade class’s kid lit quilt will be displayed on a wall in my writing room. And when I have children of my own in the future, we may have to create a household kid lit quilt. Perhaps we’ll do one drawing per year, illustrating their favorite book that year. Or we’ll create a reading list together and do one illustration for each book on the list. The pattern of the quilt is simple and one that can be easily duplicated. Then we’ll have a customized, personalized storytime quilt to snuggle under and display in the future.