Ava is finally allowed to open Aunt Jo’s mysterious trunk, and what’s inside is more magical than anything Ava could’ve imagined.
Ava, a young Black girl, likens her Aunt Jo’s house to a “fancy museum with curiosities, oddities, and doodads in every corner.” So when Aunt Jo finally gives Ava the key to the trunk she’s been eager to explore, she rushes to unlock it. Inside she finds what she thinks is an old blanket—more like a patchwork quilt. Ava learns that the blanket is made of fabric from gowns created by African American dressmaker and fashion designer Elizabeth Keckley. She and Aunt Jo are magically transported to the past, where they observe Keckley’s work and see the people she made dresses for, like first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Together, they learn about two other African American modistes of a bygone era: fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe and milliner Mildred Blount. The bold, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and a highlight of the book. The information about the historical figures is presented in a way that feels disconnected from the rest of the story. The narrator’s identity is ambiguous, which is also confusing; the illustrations suggest that Aunt Jo is the narrator, yet the text lacks quotation marks. The book manages to provide interesting facts, but the absence of bibliographic references and backmatter is disappointing.
Interesting subject, but the story is less than satisfying.(Picture book. 5-8)