Loretta Ellsworth author
Loretta Ellsworth

the shrouding woman

The Shrouding Woman

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
2002, ages 9 and up
ISBN 978-0-8050-6651-7

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The moving story of a young girl’s struggle to face her mother’s death. Set in the mid-1800s, this beautifully written story, centered on the little-known practice of shrouding, touches on death and healing with sensitivity and quiet dignity.

“She traveled to our small white house near the Iowa border on a buckboard, her green bag caked with the dusty road … I knew that she was called ‘the Shrouding Woman’ because I’d heard Papa use those words to describe her. I didn’t know what it meant but I knew it had something to do with death.”

It was once common practice for small towns to have a shrouding woman to help put their dead to rest. Still, when eleven-year-old Evie’s Aunt Flo—herself a shrouding woman— comes to town, Evie knows little of a shrouding woman’s ways and wants nothing to do with this aunt of hers, especially after her own mother’s recent death. But as this mysterious woman slowly makes her way into Evie’s life, her strong and sensitive presence brings far more than signs of death to a grieving girl’s home.

resources

honors and recognition

Booklist, American Library Association
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Horn Book
School Library Journal

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
Washington Post Book World
Rebecca Caudill Nominee, 2005
Amelia Bloomer Project List, 2003

reviews

The Shrouding Woman gently breaks new ground for children in removing some of the mystery from what some view as our last remaining obscenity, death.” (School Library Journal)

“As solid as a Dutch farmhouse interior and full of glimpses of lost pioneer traditions, from soap-making to the step-by-step ritual of preparing a dead body for burial.” (Washington Post)