Children's Bookshelf: Piece by Piece

Dec 25, 2017

“Piece By Piece” written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault is a beautiful fairytale told in both lyrical language and graceful lines about a weaver and how she stays true to her artistic gifts and triumphs over greed and rejection.

The weaver gathers memories of things from nature and places them in her collection basket while her children play on the seashore. She then weaves these visual, tactile, auditory memories such as “the crunch of leaves,” “the leap and splash of a fish” and “the kiss of the sea as it reaches the shore” into her cloth. When the cloth is fashioned into a dress she takes it to the village shopkeeper in the hope she can sell it and buy food for her children. But the shopkeeper complains that it is too shimmery and tells her to take that part out of the dress.

She goes home and cuts out the beauty, piece by piece, as the shopkeeper demanded. The weary weaver goes through this cycle three times in fairytale tradition and cuts out her treasures until there is nothing left of the beauty. Quoting from the book: “The children watched as piece by piece an indigo night fell to the floor. The coo of a dove. The juiciness of a tangerine. A bit of coral from a tropical reef.”

The next market day, a quilt made of these same fallen treasures is found folded humbly over a limb of a tree. Villagers gather round clamoring to buy it including the mean shopkeeper. But the weaver takes the quilt home for her children. When they are sleeping cozily under its spell we can only imagine she begins to stitch more quilts together piece by piece. The final glorious illustration shows the weaver selling many quilts to the townspeople as her belief in her work pays off and her fortunes flourish.

“Piece By Piece” written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault is a lovely picture book fairytale for 7-9 year olds about the beauty of nature, creativity and determination (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017). 

Activities and questions for 'Piece by Piece"

The weaver in this story gatherers memories from nature to place in her memory basket and eventually stitch into her cloth. Do you have a box, container or scrapbook that is your memory basket? If so, what do you collect? Think about it? Do you collect anything directly from nature such as beautiful stones, colorful leaves and delicate bird feathers or are your collections made up of manufactured items such as baseball cards, bottle tops and stuffed animals? Draw a picture of your memory basket(s).

Photographs capture memories, too. Do you keep photographs in an electronic memory book? If so, gather some of your photographs by printing them out and arranging them in some order in preparation for gluing or pasting them together, piece by piece, to produce a beautiful collage.

Study the pictures once again. Find the following items described poetically by the author and exquisitely enhanced by the artist: the crunch of leaves, a sparkle of starlight, a red flash of a blackbird’s wing, the kiss of the sea as it reaches the shore, the coo of a dove, the glint of a saber, the juiciness of a tangerine and the blueness of a robin’s egg. Which of these descriptions are visual? Which of these descriptions are auditory? Which appeal to the sense of touch. Which appeal to the sense of taste?