Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts

Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts

Anne Grossnickle Hines
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
HarperCollins, 2003   ISBN: 978-0060559601

Writers and illustrators have, over the centuries, found many ways to describe and celebrate the seasons. Poetry is often a format that writers are drawn to using, as the lyrical nature of poems seems to so beautifully ‘fit’ what they are trying to say about the seasons. Often these poems are paired with artwork or photographs that help encapsulate the image or feeling that the poet is trying to capture.  Anna Grossnickle Hines has done something a little different. She pairs the poems she has written with photos of quilts that she has created, and the effect is quite astonishing.

The poet begins in spring with a poem called Ballet. In the blank verse poem she describes how a crow lands on a cedar branch and how the weight of the bird causes the branch to bounce and the bird to dance. A beautiful quilt shows the crow about to land on the branch, rectangles and triangles of sewn fabric in tones of green forming the fronds at the ends of the branches.

Green plays a big role in another poem, Do you know Green? Here we see a scene that perfectly captures the colors and textures of spring. The poem describes how “Green sleeps in the winter,” until, with the warming of the sun it, “comes… / tickling the tips / of twiggy tree fingers.”

In summer we see cows in a field. With a “Scrunch, / crunch, / munch,” they eat their lunch, their tails twitching. Summer is also a time when there is “a mass of wild confusion” of flowers blooming. The “rousing-raucous” celebration of colors and scents stirs us “to jubilation.” During the warms days, hummingbirds “zip zip” and “sip sip” amongst the flowers of the honeysuckle vine.

Then the tone of the poems and the colors of the quilts shift for fall. Now the green has been replaced with reds, golds, and rusts. We see leaves drifting down singly or in groups, “swirling / and whirling / twisting / and twirling.” Other leaves “skip-a-dip” and others “just drop / flop.”

Winter brings the greys and blacks of tree branch silhouettes, the pale yellow of a winter sun, and the whites and blues of snowfall. We read about how sometimes, when the author is sleeping at night, “outside / the world is turning / white.”

At the back of the book the author explains how she created the remarkable quilts that illustrate her poems. We learn how much time and careful effort goes into creating the quilts, and how the author designs them. We learn too that often seams have to be taken out and redone to get the effect the author is looking for.