Friday, August 05, 2016

Leaving Gee's Bend Author Meets a Fan at the Five Points West Library

Sydni and author Irene Latham

Whew! I survived my first summer reading season. If you don’t work in a library youth department, you have no idea how busy these last two months have been. (Imagine performing in all three rings of a three-ring circus!) But for all the frenzy and long hours, the effort was definitely worth it. It’s the little moments that best prove the point.

To capture those moments, I began posting photos of “Today’s Featured Reader” on our Five Points West Regional Branch Library (FPW) Facebook page. There was young Elliott, a snaggletoothed 5-year-old thrilled with his first library card. And Joi, who read every book in the Dork Diaries series and offered her recommendations to fellow readers. One dedicated mother read over 150 books with her toddler between June and July. What a lucky little girl.

They read 150 books this summer!

I was even amused by kids who tried to bluff their way to a prize. Daniel, a regular at FPW, would claim to have read a book after 15 minutes paging through it. Our compromise: he would read aloud to me while I worked at my desk. Hey, if I can coax a kid to read with the promise of a Tootsie Pop, I’m down with that!

But the high point of the summer came when Sydni introduced me to her favorite book, Leaving Gee’s Bend, by Irene Latham. As a Selma native and proud owner of a Gee’s Bend quilt, I naturally wanted to know more. Sydni happily complied, effusive with details from the story as well as the author’s visit to her school. In return, I told her about buying my quilt and taking a ride on the Gee’s Bend Ferry, which she is dying to try.

Alison and family on the Gee's Bend Ferry
Curious about this author who had captured a young girl’s imagination, I looked up Irene Latham ( On a whim, I sent her an e-mail with a link to Sydni’s photo on our Facebook page. Thus began the conversation which led to a delightful meeting between author and reader. Latham brought Sydni a signed copy of the book, and Sydni brought handmade gifts for Latham. "The best part of my job is meeting readers like Sydni," Latham said. She asked Sydni to add a bit of wisdom she learned from her mother to a quilt block. (Latham collects these motherly sayings from fans of her book because The Wisdom of Mothers is a major theme in the story.) And meanwhile, this English teacher turned library storyteller got to watch. Goosebumps.

After Ms. Latham had left, Sydni hugged her new book and confided, “My friends will be so jealous!” So will mine, Sydni. So will mine.

Sydni adding her personal touch to Latham's
quilt block.
Learn more about Gee’s Bend Quilts

Leaving Gee’s Bend Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Gee's Bend, Alabama, Leaving Gee’s Bend is a heart-touching tale of a young girl's unexpected adventure. (From author’s website)

Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Pat McKissack

The Quilts of Gees Bend by John Beardsly, et al.

The Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend [videorecording] Alabama Public Television

If you would like to learn how to quilt, the Springville Road Regional Branch Library offers quilting classes for beginners every month. The next class is scheduled for September 2, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Fontaine Alison
Five Points West Regional Branch Library

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