Monday, April 1, 2013

Knit Your Bit

Booklist starred (March 15, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 14))

Grades K-3. With WWI raging, everyone at home is expected to do their bit. Mikey and his sister Ellie want to help; Mikey is hoping to do something big. That most certainly does not include knitting (Boys don’t knit!). Even after Ellie shows him a picture of firemen knitting, Mikey refuses. But a knit-in with prizes in Central Park draws the boys of Miss Robin’s class into a contest against the Purl Girls. Let the knitting commence. The day of the contest finds Mikey in the park, trying to finish a pair of socks—but a hole in the second sock means ripping it down and losing the contest. However, a chance encounter with a one-legged soldier gives the single sock a home and offers Mikey a more rounded vision of what it means to help. Hopkinson reached back into history to come up with this golden nugget: during WWI, women, children—and men—took up knitting when it was discovered soldiers didn’t have enough hats, scarves, and socks. The bright telling is right at a kid’s level and captures both the specificity of the time and universality of human interactions. The author’s note (bolstered by an image of a contemporaneous poster) puts the fiction in solid historical context. Guarnaccia has chosen to illustrate in a style reminiscent of old-time Sunday funnies, which is perfect for the story. Oversize and set on white backgrounds, the pictures keep the focus on the amiable characters. The story ends by reminding readers they can still knit for today’s soldiers. A terrific yarn.

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