Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Book report: Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria, sent to me by the author, Kyra E. Hicks. This is the true story of Martha Ann Ricks, a former slave whose father — a free man and traveling preacher — saved enough money to purchase his family's freedom, and move to Liberia, Africa. Once in Africa, Martha Ann was able to attend school, and she learned to read.

As an adult, Martha Ann and her husband would visit the market and watch naval ships patrolling the Liberian coast, to prevent slave catchers from kidnapping black people. These ships had been sent by Queen Victoria of England. Martha Ann was so impressed by the queen, she decided to use her sewing and quilt making skills, taught to her by her mother, to make the queen a quilt. And she determined to someday present the queen with her gift and thank her in person.

After years of hard work, Martha Ann saved enough money to make the 3,500-mile trip, and with the help of the wife of Liberia's president, she does just that.

By special invitation from Her Majesty, Martha Ann visited Windsor Castle and presented her Coffee Tree quilt to Queen Victoria in July of 1892.

There's many things to like about this book. First, it used simple straightforward and easy to understand language. No flowery-written metaphors to decode. Second, the story is rich with history. Children will be eager to learn more about Queen Victoria; Liberia, Africa; and possibly quilting. After reading the book to my son, he had all sorts of questions about the queen. Shoot — I don't know myself, I'll have to look it up.

The story was emotional. I was touched by Martha Ann's spirit of perseverance. I cheered for her when she determined to stay in Liberia and go to school after most of her family had died from African Fever. Later, she set a goal to meet the queen, and she didn't rest until she finally did, even though everyone, including her husband, laughed at her.

Martha Ann's story was a new for me. I love it when authors choose to introduce and tell the stories of not so well known historical figures.

Kyra Hicks is also the author of Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook. And I was excited to learn that she'd purchased some of my fabric and gave it to a relative at Christmas.

This is the first time an author's sent me a book for review on my blog. Kinda cool. Notice I didn't call it a book review. There's probably some formal procedure I know nothing about. So, consider this a book report with my thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the 'non-review'. :) Sounds like a great book.

Anonymous said...

This looks great for me - I am going to get it! Thanks for the review.

rindawriter said...

Yes, I knew this story from my quilt research and got to see a photo of the actual quilt! All of the tiny, little leaves that are on this quilt are not an easy shape to applique; it takes a lot of skill and time to do something like this quilt--it's very unusual, impressive work.