Perfect Picture Book Friday/Circle Unbroken

Perfect Picture Book Friday/Circle Unbroken

Hi Friends!

As my friend Vivian Kirkfield explains, today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susannah Leonard Hill’s  fantastic group of writers who contribute a picture book review and related resources.  Parents and teachers can find the best of the best in picture books…a little synopsis, a thoughtful review, and an activity and/or resources to extend the learning experience.  This is a great way for parents and teachers to preview a book before they take it out of the library or spend money buying it.

And also what I’d like to do is give these web sites to you:

Thirty days to find readers outside your network. This is good for me to know. I am trying to reach these readers. I’ve been doing school visits for both kindergarten and first graders at different elementary schools. (I am so excited about this!! :))  Now to reach out to other readers and find other ways of finding readers.

And then there’s the cycle of life and the cycle of a writer. Interesting stuff. 

OK then, on to PPBF, do you have your chocolate and coffee? 

Circle Unbroken book cover1_Title: Circle Unbroken

Author/Illustrator: Margot Theis Raven and E.B. Lewis

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa Books, 2004, ages 4 to 11

Themes: Nonfiction, craft, inter connectiveness, relationship between grandmother and granddaughter, generations, heredity ,traditions, teamwork, self-esteem, self-worth, self-acceptance, relationships, comfort, reassurance,perseverance, patience, love, hope, history,growing up, family, educational, DIVERSITY/MULTI-CULTURALISM/RACIAL DIVERSITY, CULTURE, COOPERATION/WORKING TOGETHER, COMMON CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES, slavery, African-American,

Resources: A reading guide can be found here:

For a more thorough pdf go here:

Gives web sites and lesson plans, one which is for students to draw what they read but don’t see like the African bush school and the African wedding. 

What the first three sentences say: “Now , you’ve asked me, child, how I come to sew. Well put yourself in Grandma’s arms, and listen to a circle tale, from long, long ago…

What the Jacket Says: “Now you’ve asked me, child, How I come to sew…” With these words, a grandmother begins to weave a story, going back generations to her old-timey grandfather’s village in faraway Africa.  There , as a boy, he learned to hunt and fish, to make  ropes and nets and traps—and baskets so tightly woven they could hold the rain.

Even after being stolen away to a slave ship bound for the strange new land of America, he remembers the things  he learned. Working in the rice fields of a plantation from “day clean to sun-go-red,” he remembers—and passes these memories on his children.

Now, as Grandma teaches her grand-daughter the intricate art of sewing sweet-grass baskets,s he knows

“And when your fingers talk just right

That circle will go out and out again—

Past slavery and freedom, old ways and new,

And your basket will hold the past—

Just as surely and tightly

As my arms now hold and circle you…”

With powerful images, this story of the preservation of the art of the sweetgrass baskets of the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry spirals through time and expands in meaning until it becomes a triumphant song—one that tells a rich story of a craft, a culture, and a people.”

Why I love it: Wow! This story brought tears to my eyes. The beautiful prose bordering on poetry was enough to impress me. But along with the promise of generations before passing on love in the form  of basket weaving as a metaphor for the love that  circles around from grand-parents to their grand children was almost too much. There were many levels in this book. The message of love being passed on in forms of craft, arms circling round children, and passing on blessings was unmistakable. The art was stupendous. The full page spreads are breath taking. And leaves me feeling like this picture book surpassed all expectations.

As two reviews say:

“Clear poetic words and exquisite watercolor illustrations depict how the small circular basket holds the big circle of African-American history….Lewis’ astonishing pictures combine the panoramas of upheaval and war with portraits of individuals in small circles weaving and passing on their heritage in craft and story.” — Booklist, Starred Review

“Raven’s text masterfully frames several hundred years of African-American history within the picture-book format. Lewis’s double-page watercolor images are poignant and perfectly matched to the text and mood.” — School Library Journal

Do you think you will like this book? Why or why not?

Have a safe and lovely weekend, y’all. Xoxo

Below find photos of a sweet grass basket I gave my sister, Johanna Ash,  one year after camping across the States and stopping both to buy the basket and again to give it to her in Texas.

Open sweet grass basket given to my sister,

Open sweet grass basket given to my sister,

closed sweet grass basket given Johanna Ash, my sister. :)

closed sweet grass basket given Johanna Ash, my sister. 🙂

Closed sweet grass basket
Closed sweet grass basket


Johanna's sweet grass basket, closed. See ruler?

Johanna’s sweet grass basket, closed. See ruler?

That’s all folks!! Xoxo


About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
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29 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday/Circle Unbroken

  1. Janet Smart says:

    This sounds like a wonderful book! Kind of reminds me of Roots, only for children.Thanks for the review.


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Janet.

      It’s only king of like roots. The main focas on the one level is the sweet grass baskets and the love they generate through the generations. Another level is the hereditary pull from grandmother to grand daughter. And another level is the culture. I’m sure I’m missing some but you can take a look at the resources. 🙂


  2. Your pictures of the sweet grass basket you gave to your sister are really neat! How very appropriate for this post!


  3. I’ve seen this baskets in person a few years ago when we visited Charleston…how interesting to hear the story behind the making of them. Great cultural find!


  4. I love this book! E.B. Lewis’ illustrations carry such emotion, they really bring the story to life.


  5. LOL — I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many themes for a book! You really are passionate about this book. I love books with hitorical fiction woven into them. What a beautiful story — I definitely want to read because I have a soft spot for them. The baskets are beautiful! Reminds me a bit of the book I reviewed last year, “The Mule at Gees Bend,” which had a similar theme. The community was known for its quilte. Lovely review!


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Patricia,

      I’ll go through your blog and see if I can find the post you mention. A whole community known for it’s quilts must be in Amish country unless I’m mistaken.

      These baskets are known for low country communities like Georgia and South Carolina but in Africa, Sierra Leone is known for them.

      I go through the themes on Susanna’s blog to identify them for my books. It makes it easier for her to catalog them for us. I agree that this book had a lot of them. lol.


      • No, I reviewed it in connection with Black History month. It’s about the slaves that settled on this island/peninsula in the south, and MLK’s visit there. You can look under African-American in my sidebar, or just type on the web “quilts of Gee’s Bend.”


        • clarbojahn says:

          That was a great idea, Patricia. I googled “The quilts of Gee’s Bend” like you said and it brought me to their facebook page and wikipedia and much more. It is just fascinating.

          Now to check out your post. I am sure you’ve put on a different slant I want to be sure and read. 🙂


  6. Margot Finke says:

    I love the idea of this book, “Circle Unbroken.” Pinned it on my Pinterest “Book Review” board.

    Books for Kids – Manuscript Critiques


  7. Joanna says:

    I love how the different stories are woven together and there are layers of meaning in this story. That cover is precious!


  8. Yes, like Joanna that cover certainly intriqued me. What a beautiful story and one the catches the heart. Love it, Clar.


  9. Sounds like a beautiful book to curl up on a couch with and share with a couple of loved children.


  10. Looks and sounds radiant! I must share this with my neighbor, another basket weaver.


  11. weaving baskets and weaving stories. Circles. What a great story! Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to check this one out.


  12. I agree with Julie R-Z. Looks and sounds radiant!


  13. What a beautifully written opening line! Thanks for the recommendation.


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