The Promise Quilt
By Candice F. Ransom
Illustrations by Ellen Beier
I loved this book; it was extremely emotional, but I think it has a lot of uses in the classroom and would be very beneficial for students to read. It is about a family during the Civil War, and the father goes off to fight in the war, and is told from the perspective of his daughter, Addie. Halfway through the book, Addie finds out that her dad was killed in the war, and they receive his jacket from the army. Addie wants to make her father proud and fulfill his promise to her she would go to school and get a great education. In order to do this, she has to give up her dad’s jacket to help her mom make a quilt to sell so they can buy books for school.
One thing I really liked in this book was how the illustrations capture the emotions of the characters. And not only that, but because of the way Ransom writes from Addie’s point of view (a child), we can really feel what she is feeling. Both of these contribute to the emotions the reader goes through throughout the book.
I think this would be a good book to use when introducing a Civil War or any type of War unit in social studies. At the end, there is an overview of the actual history of the Civil War, if students are intrigued and want to read more right away. This book really gives a different and important perspective that is often forgotten; the families and dreams of children are not often the focus of books written about wartime. I think that even though kids haven’t gone through this specific situation, it is a good way to help reach out to children who have had a loved one, maybe even a parent, die and reinforcing that feeling these emotions after experiencing something like this is normal and expected. What is important is to hold on to the positive memories you have of that person, and to do what you think they would be proud of. By reading this book, you can discuss those ideas in terms of the book without singling out specific students or situations but still reaching them.
This can also be used in a language arts or literacy situation. Addie’s goes through all of this trouble and gives up her most prized possession in order to get an education and to learn how to read and write. Today, we take school and reading so fore-granted, it could be interesting what kids have to say about what life might be like if they didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. Would they give up everything they had, like Addie, to get an education?
The red coat is really symbolic in this book, and would be a good way to introduce symbolism or motifs to younger students. Lastly, there are lots of important messages and themes of this book; importance of family, staying positive in difficult times, value of education and always maintaining hope for the future among others.