Have you ever been bombarded with an amazing idea; a creation that came to you out of nowhere, where some unknown instinct guided you in what its beginning, middle and end should be? That is what happens in author Stephanie Shaw’s latest sweet picture book, Piece by Piece.
In the blue-tinged pages of this wistful little picture book, readers witness first-hand the birth of a weaver’s creativity. Within the “crunch of leaves, springiness of moss, and leap and splash of a fish” she hears and sees memories in her mind that demand to be made into something solid, sweet and beautiful. So she gathers the pieces of these memories and weaves them into “rich, exquisite and unique” cloth.
There is nothing out there like what she has made and she stuns her children and even herself with her own creativity. But when she tries to sell her masterpiece to the village shopkeeper, he does what almost every creative has experienced: he immediately begins to criticize her work. He calls her labor of love “nonsense” and declares that he can never sell anything like that. His wife chimes in with criticism of her own, and before the weaver knows it, she is snipping and tweaking her beautiful masterpiece to please the shopkeepers.
The problem is that once she snips the gown to their specifications, it is no longer beautiful or unique. She no longer has a creation from her own mind; she has a monstrosity made from THEIR minds…and they no longer want to buy it.
Thank goodness her own children have been watching her snip away the pieces of her lovely masterpiece, and they have gathered them together to make an all new piece: a quilt. When the townspeople see it, they rush to purchase it…and of course the shopkeeper and his wife hurry over so they can buy it and resell it.
But this time the weaver does not bargain with the shopkeeper. She could not see the value in her own masterpiece; only when her children gather the pieces together does she take the time to see that what she (and they!) have created is indeed beautiful, and unique.
Piece by Piece is a lovely book that is trademark Stephanie Shaw: it is sweet, wistful, and burns in the memory long after the last page has been turned. Readers will easily identify with the dilemma of creating something wonderful that others criticize or condemn without considering the impact this will have on the creator. The prose is sweet and wistful, and the mystical, bluish-purple illustrations conjure memories of the fairy tale classics of long ago.
Use this book as a discussion-starter about creativity, uniqueness, independent thought, and “dancing to your own drum.”