Welcome to this month's virtual book club guide for the Itsy Bitsy Nimbus Book Club. We've partnered together with Nimbus Publishing to feature a great local children's book for you and the children in your life to enjoy together.
This month's book is Abigail's Wish. It's the first picture book set in Birchtown, Nova Scotia, one of the first black settlements in Nova Scotia. The book is written by Gloria Ann Wesley, who is known for her beautiful poetry, and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki who has created gorgeous images for many of your favourite local books.
The story is about young Abigail who desperately wants a new dress (something my dress loving daughter really related to!). The book weaves the story of this desire in with pieces of local black history, Birchtown community activities, the difficult conditions in Nova Scotia for the settlers, and the challenges Abigail faced in adjusting to her new home.
This is a story that is told from the perspective of a child with typical wants and needs, but in a place very foreign to many children today. It provides a relatable character for kids and a natural springboard to talk about African heritage month and the role that Nova Scotia plays in it.
STORY QUILT ART
One underlying theme through the story is fabric and patchwork quilts. Abigail's wish for a new dress, her pregnant aunt wrapped in a patchwork quilt, the new baby wrapped in the same quilt, a longing for new fabric at the store and Abigail piecing together scraps of fabric from old clothing to make a new patchwork quilt for her baby cousin.
This provides a natural reading extension to talk about how quilts are a form of storytelling in themselves. To do this in a way that children can understand, you can start by looking at any quilts in your home and discussing who made them and the story they may tell, and then you can create this paper patchwork quilt art project to tell Abigail's story.
You will need a canvas, colourful patterned and plan paper (we used scrapbook paper), modpodge and foam brushes. We used an 18"x 24" canvas and 6"x 6" scrapbook paper. An alternative is to use bristol board and glue, although it won't have the same sturdiness as canvas.
To begin, reread the book with the children and choose six scenes that they see as important parts of Abigail's story. Photocopy these pages (this is fine to do as long as it's only for your personal use) and cut out the images.
Lay out the squares of paper to make a quilt-like design by alternating a patterned square with a solid colour one (which is where the story images will go). Once you are happy with the way it looks snap a photo of it (so you can remember where they all go!) and remove the papers.
Have children spread modpodge all over the canvas with the foam brushes until every corner is covered. Then, using the image you snapped, have the children carefully place each piece of paper onto the canvas so that they slightly overlap and you can't see the canvas at all. It dries quickly so work quickly!
Now it's time to add the images from the book. We went through the book another time here and ordered the images on the canvas in the same order as the story. Attach the images to the solid colour squares with modpodge working as glue.
Now came my kids' favourite part. Cover the WHOLE project with modpodge. Spread it over every inch of the surface, being careful around where the papers connect to each other so nothing catches or tears. This is also a good time to make sure all the edges have enough modpodge under them to keep it flat. Smooth out the modpodge as they go to make sure there are no big globs. It will look "weird" (as my daughter kept saying with concern) but in a few hours, when it dries, it will be transparently shiny and sealed to protect the art. It makes a beautiful children's artwork addition to any reading corner, along with a visual prompt for children to retell and reenact it in their future play.
ALTERNATE EXTENSION: Have the children draw images from the story on the solid colour sections; or get smaller canvases and paper and do individual quilt art.
During the story Abigail visits her church to see if they have received any donations of dresses and is disappointed to hear they have not. In the end it is a kind donation from a friend that helps make her wish come true.
Talk to the children about how they may be able to help a child who is waiting for a special donation. Encourage them to gather up some clothes that don't fit, or that they don't wear, and some used, good condition toys and consider donating them to a local organization that will find other children to distribute them to.
Be sure to bring the children along for the donation so that they understand the complete process. Remind them about how thrilled Abigail was to receive her special gift and how their generosity will make another child happy as well.
MAP THE ROUTE
This activity will help children understand the route that Abigail, and many other African settlers and refugees, took to arrive in Nova Scotia, and is a great introduction to understanding that the world is much larger than their little corner.
Make some copies of a world map or print some out (we found some free printables at D-Maps). Print blank, outlined maps for younger children, and ones with countries coloured in for older children.
For the older children attach the maps to tracing paper with some masking tape (so it doesn't wiggle around) so they can create their own map. You can buy paper specifically for this, or make your own.
Talk to the children about the route that Abigail took to get to Nova Scotia that is outlined in the book and point out the locations on the map. Give the option of tracing one world map or multiple maps (one of the continent of Africa, the United States and Canada).
When they finish tracing the maps, show them the route that Abigail traveled. If they wish, they can colour in the specific spots, or even the whole map.
For younger children you can do a connect the dots and colouring activity where you print a blank outlined map of the world and make dots numbering 1, 2 and 3 in the Senegal/Gambia area of Africa (where many Africans of Abigail's time lived before they were taken to North America) to New York and then to Nova Scotia. Have the children connect the dots and then colour in either just the locations that Abigail traveled, or the whole map.
When you finish this activity show the children a world map and ask them if they can find where Abigail and other African Nova Scotians started their journey. You may be surprised at their new comprehension of world geography!
ALTERNATE EXTENSION: Add your family's history to the maps. If you don't know your family's history, this may be a good time to take your children to talk to an older relative and/or do a little research to learn your own story.
FINAL EXTENSION IDEAS
Take a field trip to the Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia to learn more about the paths of the African settlers and refugees to Nova Scotia; or plan a vacation or series of day trips with the African Nova Scotia road trip map on the Tourism Nova Scotia website to visit towns of significance, including Birchtown.
WIN A COPY OF ABIGAIL'S WISH
For your chance to win, tell us which activity in the Itsy Bitsy Nimbus Book Club you want to do with your kids. Leave your comment on this blog post below (and make sure you leave an email address so we can contact you if you're the winner!) and/or on this Facebook status. If you leave a comment on both, you'll get two entries; then, if you like the Facebook status also, you'll get three entries! Good luck!
Contest closes at 8:00p.m. AST on Tuesday, February 21 and winner will be announced by February 22.
*Contest restricted to residents over the age of majority in North America.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links at no cost to you. As always, all opinions shared here are my own. Please see my Disclosures for more information.