I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery

Cover to I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery

Poems by Cynthia Grady with illustrations by Michele Wood

Cynthia Grady and illustrator Michele Wood have crafted a book to share with children where each poem, together with its picture, is a thoughtful illumination of some aspect of slaves’ experiences.

Although the layout may at first glance seem simple, the inobvious details are what make it so special—an excellent choice to share, especially during Black History Month.

Written in unrhymed verse, ten lines of ten syllables mimic the square shape of a quilt block. The poems are long enough to tell a story without being so lengthy as to discourage children from paying attention.

Cynthia Grady, a school librarian, got the idea for I Lay My Stitches Down when she was teaching a class for children on quilting. One pattern she shared, “Underground Railroad,” suggested three poems to her immediately.

According to the author, each poem-story has three references: “a biblical or spiritual reference, a musical reference, and a sewing or fiber arts reference.” That careful attention and the history notes below each poem give much depth to this picture book. Artist Michele Wood has studied Southern African American history and culture and was inspired to create vivid paintings to match Cynthia’s words.

I Lay My Stitches Down is an excellent choice to share with students as it resonates on so many levels. Its art, poetry, and history can work together to create patterns of hope and strength in modern children’s psyches.