Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

The Quilt Walk / by Sandra Dallas

Title: The Quilt Walk
Author: Sandra Dallas
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Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
ISBN: 978-1-58536-800-6
Year: 2012
Concepts: Economic History, Entrepreneurs, Scarcity
Review: In 1863, in the middle of the Colorado Gold Rush, Emmy Blue's father announces that she, her parents, and her aunt and uncle will be going west to find their fortune. The family must then pack up everything they own and travel from their hometown in Illinois to Golden, Colorado, leaving behind family, friends, and Emmy Blue's beloved cat. The journey is a difficult one, and Emmy Blue learns many lessons along the way. She learns how to walk beside the cattle, what happens when a rattlesnake bites, and how it feels to lose friends both new and old. Emmy Blue has never been very interested in sewing, but her grandmother’s parting gift is all the material she needs to make a quilt for her favorite doll. Her mother and aunt teach Emmy Blue to “piece” to pass the time, and slowly she assembles the quilt as they walk. As she learns to quilt, she also learns to find meaning in quilting: in The Quilt Walk, quilting is a woman’s language, marking life events, honoring friends, and providing a framework for female interaction separate from the male-dominated world women live within.
A heavily fictionalized account of a real family’s journey, The Quilt Walk is a chapter book that would be especially interesting to children who enjoy fiction with a historical focus. Emmy Blue is a sympathetic protagonist and her family’s trials and tribulations make for a gripping read. This book is particularly notable for the inclusion of complex issues such as birth, death, grief, and domestic violence and for the depiction of realistic women whose strength is sometimes at odds with the society in which they live. Because Emmy Blue’s tale highlights many of the struggles pioneers would have faced, The Quilt Walk would be an excellent addition to lessons about the gold rushes and the 1800s. Parents and teachers could use this material to discuss the value of natural resources such as gold and the impact of large-scale entrepreneurship (how whole industries, economies, and towns sprung up around gold mines). Another topic of discussion might be the role of women in the gold rush economy and the impact of the gold rush on the domestic sphere.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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