Editorial Review

F Is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet

Cover: F is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet

F Is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet
by Helen L. Wilbur and Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

I’ve never quite figured out my addiction to alphabet books. I don’t have children of my own (although I do have nieces and nephews who now have their own offspring), so I can’t hide behind their interests. Maybe somewhere in my subconscious, I see these books as bright beginnings: the first step in learning to read and with that, a lifetime of discovery and pleasure. Whatever its source, I like just about every ABC that I’ve ever encountered. This one though, this one is something special.

Let’s begin at the end: this primer provides a word for the letter Q. So many authors of alphabet books are forced to skip that little-used consonant. [I have visions of writers sitting down with Webster’s Unabridged desperately searching, word-by-word, through the section on Q in the wee small hours of the morning.] It’s good to see that our craft is able to provide a ready-made entry for that oft-neglected letter.

For each letter in this volume, there is a short rhyme. Topics for the letters are wide-ranging: Native Americans, the Names Project, square dancing, crazy quilts, mathematics, and westward expansion. Because the choice of subjects is so varied, it is inevitable that many eras are covered. Each letter is also accompanied by a well-rendered drawing (not photograph) relating to the rhyme; these are multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and show both female and male quilters. Some of these attributes are common to alphabet books; some are a bit more unusual, but not decidedly unique. What sets this book apart from others in the genre are the short sketches, which Wilbur provides in addition to the rhymes. In them, the author gives her readers additional information about the issues explored. For example, the rhyme for Q reads as follows:

“Q is for Quilting Bee
Come on, sister, don’t be shy.
Get ready now to stitch and tie.
Sit by the frame my father built.
By evening we will have a quilt.”

The sketch reads…

“At a quilting bee friends and neighbors gather to quilt. Before sewing machines a quilt could take months for one person to complete. Many quilters working together could finish one in a day. Back then, women quilted on a homemade wooden frame, big enough to seat many participants on all sides, while the hostess prepared a lunch or supper. Younger women learned stitching expertise and everyone shared recipes, advice, stories, gossip, joys, and sorrows. This tradition continues with today’s quilters.

Quilting bees also gave women opportunities to discuss political and social events. Susan B. Anthony gave her first speech on equal rights for women at a quilting bee in Cleveland, Ohio. It wasn’t until nearly 50 years later that women got the right to vote.”

As is evident, these sketches are geared more toward adults. But they also provide additional information for questioning little minds that might want to know more about the topics covered. Though I’m not a historian, I do read a wide-variety of sources on all aspects of quilting. I learned many valuable tidbits of information from this book (for instance, the above factoid on Susan B. Anthony).

The love and care, the selection of wonderful drawings, the extra research that went into writing the sketches, these all help to move F Is for Friendship from good to great. If you enjoy alphabet books as much as I, I highly recommend purchasing a copy for your personal library… whether or not you have children in your home.

Note: This book was published in 2011, but it is still available for purchase.

—Mary Boland

Products Reviewed

Title   ATOS Format Qty
F is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet 6.8

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