F is for Friendship

A Quilt Alphabet

Quilting has existed for thousands of years, spanning the globe, practiced by women as well as men, and bringing together communities and generations. F is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet examines the subject of quilting, as an art form as well as an item of utility, tracing its early history from a cave in Mongolia to patchwork bedcoverings transported in overland wagon trains to present-day exhibits at renowned museums. Topics include patterns, inventions, and fabric choices, as well as quilts as vehicles of American history. Helen L. Wilbur also authored Lily's Victory Garden and Z is for Zeus: A Greek Mythology Alphabet. A former librarian who now works on the electronic side of the publishing world, she lives in New York City. Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen has illustrated more than 20 books with Sleeping Bear Press, including the best-selling The Legend of Sleeping Bear and The Edmund Fitzgerald: Song of the Bell. He and his wife, Robbyn, live in Bath, Michigan.

Format List Price Your Price Qty
$16.95 $16.95
$28.95 $28.95
Interest Level Grade 1 - Grade 4
Reading Level
Dewey 746.46
ATOS Reading Level 6.8
Guided Reading Level
Language English
Publisher Sleeping Bear Press
Available Formats Hardcover (9781585365326), PDF (9781410307798), Hosted ebook (9781627534673)
Copyright 2011, 2014
Number of Pages 32
Dimensions 11 x 10
Graphics Full-color illustrations
  • Notable Social Studies Trades Book for Young People, Commended, 2012

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.

A Review of "F is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet" in Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review

Many people have colorful quilts on the beds in their homes, and they never really think too much about them. They do not realize that quilt designs often have a story, and that making a quilt takes many hours of painstaking work.

In this very special nonfiction picture book, Helen L. Wilbur’s poems and informative text is paired with Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen’s illustrations to give young (and no so young) readers a memorable reading experience.

For each letter of the alphabet the author presents us with a word that has something to do with quilts and the making of quilts. For example, for the letter A she tells us about the artistry that goes into making quilts, describing how three layers of fabric are used to create a bedcover that is both beautiful and warm. In the poem that goes with this word we learn that even an everyday quilt is “a work of art.”
On the G page we learn that making quilts is often a skill that is passed on from mother to daughter on and on for generations. We see a picture of a little girl watching her mother, who is carefully working on a quilt. The mother’s mother taught her how to quilt, and perhaps she too will share this skill with the little girl who is watching her.

Different regions of the world have their own quilting styles and designs. On the K page, we learn that in Hawaii the beauty of the islands is captured in the designs found on the Hawaiian Kapa Moe quilts.
As they read this book, readers will come to appreciate the work that goes into making a quilt. They will come to understand that quilts connect us with the past, and they also serve as gifts that last into our future. As with all the Sleeping Bear Press alphabet books, this title can be enjoyed by readers of different ages. The pictures and poems being particularly appealing to younger readers, and the longer sections of text being more suitable to older readers.

A Review of "F Is for Friendship" in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

F Is for Friendship is an alphabet book that is quite different from the typical alphabet book you will find on the shelves. Each page is written in two parts. For the younger child, there is a short, simple, rhyming paragraph that coordinates with the letter of the page, but there is also an informative sidebar that goes into much more depth and detail, sharing facts that will interest even an adult reader. For example, for the letter P we read that “P is for Patchwork. Sewing the fabric of our lives, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives. Patches of sorrow, joy and strife, making beauty from the scraps of life.” Then in the sidebar we get more information about patchwork quilts, such as the fact that the fabric used in them usually came from worn-out clothes, flour sacks or scraps left over from other projects. The pictures are beautiful and colorful, drawing you right into the book and showing the beauty of many different kinds of quilts. In the far back of the book, there is even a small quiz to see if you can recognize some well-known quilt patterns.

We really enjoyed this book. It combines bits of history and beautiful quilts and makes a book that is interesting to both a young child and an adult.

F is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet - Teaching Guide

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Author: Helen L. Wilbur

A former librarian, Helen L. Wilbur spent many years in the world of publishing. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago and an M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University.

Helen’s award-winning children’s books include Finnegan and Fox: The Ten-Foot Cop (2014 Bank Street Best Books of the Year for Children, 2013 Creative Child Seal of Excellence Award), Lily’s Victory Garden (2011 Storytelling World Resource Honor Award: Stories for Pre-Adolescent Listeners Category, 2011 IRA Teacher’s Choices Reading List – Primary Category), Z is for Zeus: A Greek Mythology Alphabet (2009 Mom’s Choice Award) and M is for Meow: A Cat Alphabet (a 2007 ASPCA Henry Bergh Honor Book).

She shares her writing experiences at conferences, schools, and libraries. Helen lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and spends her summers in the mountains of New Hampshire. Read more about her at helenwilbur.com.

Illustrator: Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen was born in the Netherlands in 1951. With his seven brothers and sisters, he grew up exploring nature and his sketch pads were filled with observations from those family outings. Always drawing as a young boy, his father encouraged Gijsbert to make art his career. After high school, he attended and graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in Arnhem, Holland. Gijsbert, or "Mr. Nick" as many children affectionately call him during his school visits, immigrated to the United States in 1976 and worked as Art Director for the Michigan Natural Resources Magazine for 17 years. In 1995, he illustrated his first children's book, The Legend of Sleeping Bear, finally fullfilling his dream of illustrating children's books.Residing in Bath, Michigan, Nick and his family share their 40-acre farm with sheep, horses, dogs, cats, turkeys, rabbits, chickens, pigeons and a revolving door of orphaned and injured wild life. The family's nature journals logged 20 years of wild life rehabilitation on the farm and it is through these journals that the popular Hazel Ridge series was created. The farm, the land and the animals make great subjects for the artist to paint. Mr. Nick travels to schools and conferences to share his passion for drawing—encouraging kids to make their hobby their career.

Full-color illustrations