This is one of those books that I read too long ago, that I've meant to review and haven't. Honestly, despite the beautiful cover and the interesting sounding plot, I was a little skeptical about opening the door to middle grade fiction again. As much as I love to dig into some YA on occasion, I worried that getting into books with too young of a target audience would start to leave me a little cold. As it happens, I had nothing to worry about. Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham is a charming historical adventure story with a lot of heart and it turned out to be one of the many contributing books to my amazing streak of awesome reads.
Ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett has never stepped food out of her tiny hometown of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Honestly, she's never seen a reason to. Her family, her small community of sharecroppers, and her quilting are more than enough to keep her busy and happy right at home. Even though she's only got one working eye, Lu's a natural at stitching, though she doesn't always have the materials she needs for a good quilt. Mama says that every quilt tells a story, and Lu dreams of stitching a quilt that will tell a great story and make her mama smile.
Suddenly, though, things in Ludelphia's life go awry, and she finds her story changing in a big way. When Mama falls ill and is near death and the only advice forthcoming is to wait it out, Lu knows she can't just stand by and watch while her mama slips away. Soon she determines that the only way to save Mama is to leave Gee's Bend and travel to Camden in search of a doctor. Thus begins a journey fraught with danger but also with excitement during which Lu will meet both good and evil people and hopefully emerge on the other side with a better story for her quilt than she could have ever imagined.
Drawing inspiration from the real Gee's Bend's rich quilting history, Irene Latham has crafted a beautiful story of her own. Leaving Gee's Bend is a coming of age story set in a vividly drawn 1930s sharecropping community. In it, readers can find a realistic few of the hardscrabble lives lived by sharecroppers and the fine line between getting by and dire unsurvivable poverty. Ludelphia is a precocious and lovable narrator, always with the best of intentions, but occasionally getting into some scrapes due to her impulsiveness and trusting nature. Seeing her grow through her journey and collect the many experiences and pieces that will go into her quilt makes Leaving Gee's Bend a heartwarming story and a satisfying read.
Thanks to Stacey from Penguin Young Readers Group for providing me with a copy for review.