Cover of Old Dame Counterpane by Jane Yolen

Old Dame Counterpane

This feminist counting rhyme origin story began when I saw Ruth Councell’s pictures for my book What Rhymes With Moon. She had hung all the pictures on clothesline around the inside of her house and had a party for viewing. The editor came, too, and we found ourselves gobsmacked in front of the one about an old lady rocking in the sky and sewing a quilt that was the world. “I need to write a book called ‘Old Dame Counterpane’ I said aloud. “Indeed you do,” said the editor.

What reviewers have said:

  • “Old Dame Counterpane is a maternal figure, like Mother Goose; a creator, like God; and a seamstress, like many old storytellers who sew and tell … Seeming simplicity belies the depth and richness of this tale. The pacing is exquisite, both on the part of the author, who repeats and punctuates the verse with the timing of a comedian, and on the part of the illustrator, who provides meaning with each page turn. The charming watercolor illustrations are clever and full of interesting detail.” — School Library Journal
  • “A well-turned take on Genesis in which Old Dame Counterpane picks a thread, sews a scene, picks another thread, and sews on until all is created for that day.. .The book is a poetic entertainment shot through with a lesson in numbers … Yolen’s poems snap and pop. … Yolen is always worth reading aloud, and given a spirited enough performance, kids will lose themselves in the verse.” — Kirkus
  • “The soft pastel illustrations are bouncy and dreamy making this a lovely nursery rhyme and fluffy bedtime story as comfy as Old Dame Counterpane’s handmade quilt.” — Copley News Service
  • “With deceptive simplicity, Old Dame Counterpane stitches the world together square by square, completed and the earth and its creatures have been stitched into being. Yolen uses a rhyming narrative text with a catchy refrain to describe the grandmotherly old woman as she selects colorful threads for the animals of the land, birds of the sky, and fish of the sea. The watercolor illustrations, which draw heavily from a blue and violet palette, border on cute but have plenty of child appeal, and Yolen’s verse, with the jolly rhythms of a nursery rhyme, lends itself quite nicely to reading aloud.” — BookList

Out of print.