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“Quinnie Blue, did your mama teach you about the family tree?”
Quinnie Blue is a picture book written by Dinah Johnson and illustrated by James Ransome. Its rhythmic lines and elegant paintings capture the spirit behind two characters, a grandmother and her granddaughter.
Using your Imagination…
The book features a sweet conversation between a young girl and her grandmother – whom she calls “Quinnie Blue.” As she’s talking with her, she imagines what her grandmother’s childhood might have been like, and how it might be similar to her own. She muses that Quinnie Blue might have gone up the aisle at church to recite a poem at Easter, and that she’d be so proud of her reciting for Christmas.
The little girl asks her grandmother all sorts of questions, like if she wore her hair in braids just like she does, and then she wonders aloud about how that might have been. The book is entirely in the little girl’s words as she talks to her grandmother, and though the illustrations show the experiences she’s describing, you can almost envision the kind grandmother smiling and nodding kindly at her.
Quinnie Blue is perfect for any little child that might wonder “what it was like” for an elder in their childhood. The book will encourage kids to explore their imaginations and ask their biggest questions. It also depicts the sweet patience an older person might have for a very curious child – the patience to listen and the patience to affirm.
Activity Suggestions for Quinnie Blue
Encourage kids to imagine – out loud or on paper – what childhood might have been like for an elder in their family or community.
Ask: What could have been different? How might things have been similar to your childhood?
In the author’s note, Dinah Johnson includes the names of all four of her great-grandmothers, which combined happen to be the full name of the grandmother in the book.
Share the names of your child’s two grandmothers and four great-grandmothers, or as many as you can name. As much as you can remember, tell a story about each woman, or call up a relative who might be able to share a story with your child. Record each story!
Encourage your child to illustrate one or more of the stories they learn about their grandmothers or great-grandmothers. Imagine together more stories and experiences for each one, and illustrate these, too.
Create a pictorial family tree! You can print out photos or draw pictures of each person. Even if you don’t know what they looked like, use your imaginations!
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All around, this book is an encouragement to use your imagination when it comes to family history. We’ll never know everything about our ancestors’ lives, but we can imagine what it might have been like.
Have fun with it, and be creative!
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