I regularly use picture books in the speech room to build vocabulary, give children an opportunity to practice their speech sounds and formulate sentences as they retell the story. One day, I read a book in which the main character had dark skin. After I read it, one of my students pulled the book to his chest, hugged it tight and said, “He looks like me!” I wish you could have seen the shimmering joy (and surprise) on his face. It saddened me to think of how few books I have that he could relate to in such an intimate way.
Perhaps this experience seeped into my subconscious and made its way into a dream, for one night, while I was sleeping, I heard a little boy, with a southern accent saying,
“My mama has a needle and a spool of long white thread . . . ” When his face drifted into the dream, his skin was dark.
MAMA’S NEEDLE came from that dream and the small voice became the narrator. In the book, he tells of his Mama’s needle and how she uses it to patch holes in the knees of his pants, bind scraps of cloth into quilts and stitch dreams into reality.
One night, the young boy dreams of his Mama’s needle flying through the air with its white tail of thread floating along behind, like it’s riding a wave. The needle catches a bird flying by but doesn’t hurt it.
It spears some leaves shivering in a tree, and rays from the sun. It even snatches the tail of the wind and wrestles it onto the thread. His mama laughs when she hears about the dream but she stitches the images onto a quilt.
“Her long shiny needle stitched those pieces together for remembering. Mama says I should go ahead and fly with my dreams.”
And he does, taking his quilt with him.