Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly Sews Her Way to Freedom

Holiday House. Nov. 2021. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823439638.
Gr 2-5–This picture book biography is a heroine’s journey from slavery to freedom. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Hobbs Keckly (1818–1907) was born into slavery in Virginia. She learned to read, write, and sew from her mother, amidst the brutality and sorrow of slavery. Lizzy became an accomplished seamstress and her skills enabled her to support herself and even buy her own freedom after 37 years of slavery. She established her own dress shop as a free woman and acquired high-profile clients, becoming First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker. Quotes from Lizzy’s autobiography are scattered throughout the narrative, and are given a powerful presence on the page through the skillful use of text and font styles. Repetitive phrasing highlights the connection of her livelihood to her freedom. Readers can find out more about Lizzy’s accomplishments, such as creating opportunities and associations for other African American women and children, in the author’s notes, time line, and bibliography in the back matter. The illustrations are a remarkable collage of painted scenes that are combined with decorative paper, fabric, lace, ribbon, braid trim, and intricate embroidery. This creates a three-dimensional presentation that brings to life the creativity and craftsmanship of Lizzy’s dresses.
VERDICT A title that stitches together the journey of a determined and resilient heroine from the past. An essential purchase that will strengthen all biography collections.

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