And it comes out right before my birthday. I’m just sayin’.
(Thanks to Betsy Bird for the heads-up!)
Three Little Kittens by Jerry Pinkney
Caldecott medalist Pinkney adds some very special knitterly touches to the classic nursery rhyme about those careless kittens. Busy playing outside, all three kittens lose their lovely hand-knit mittens, and Mama tells them they cannot have any pie. The kittens quickly go out and find their mittens, then get pie all over them! After washing and drying those messy mittens, the kittens are ready to head back outside to play.
Music is provided on the inside of the dust jacket to sing the words of the book (sadly, nearly inaccessible in my library copy, as the dust jacket is covered with plastic and firmly fastened to the cover; some libraries will likely remove the dust jacket entirely), and the text definitely works better sung than simply read.
The best part of the book, though, is the artwork. Pinkney’s watercolor and graphite pencil illustrations form double-page full-bleed spreads with wonderful details. On the title page spread, the kittens peer out the window at three birds, one of which is wearing a knitted hat with earflaps and a pompom on top! In the next spread, the reader sees Mama Cat knitting, her mitten pattern open on the floor. And, of course, one of the kittens’ favorite playthings appears to be a large ball of yellow yarn.
A sweet addition to any picture book collection, with details that will be especially appreciated by knitting parents.
(Source note: I checked this book out from my public library.)
What knitter hasn’t had the sad experience of working for hours on a gift item, only to discover that the recipient doesn’t like it, never wears it, or hid or gave it away? I like to call it UGGS: Unappreciated Gift Giver Syndrome, and I still avoid it by mostly knitting just for me. But UGGS also rears its ugly head in fiction, so here are three picture books about knitters looking for a little appreciation. As an added bonus, they all happen to be animals.
Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza by Holly Clifton-Brown.
Published in the UK and Australia before hitting the States, this book stars a sweet if slightly dim owl who loves to knit. Unfortunately, her strigine friends refuse to wear the brightly colored clothes she creates. So, she travels around the world (in various partially-knitted forms of transport) in search of some happy knitwear recipients. She tries the rain forest, the African plains, and the Arctic before getting a bit homesick (and running out of yarn). When she gets back home, she discovers that the other owls have come to appreciate her and her gifts. The storytelling is a little clunky, but the watercolor illustrations are adorable, even if it does look like Annie is knitting with two very large iron nails in a rather peculiar style. (It’s probably very hard to knit with wings.) I take issue with the depiction of penguins frolicking with polar bears up in the Arctic – it’s a pet peeve of mine – but they’re so darn cute!
Derek the Knitting Dinosaur, by Mary Blackwood, illustrated by Kerry Argent
In this rhymed-text import from Australia, Derek is a little green dinosaur with a problem. His brothers, Fang and Fearless, are big, fierce, scary dinosaurs who roar and stomp and fight while Derek just likes to sit inside, knitting and chatting with his friend Montmorency (a cute but quite toothy spotted mouse). Fang and Fearless aren’t all that bothered by Derek’s homebody ways, but he seems to worry that he should be more like them. When the weather suddenly turns colder, Derek’s brothers come to him for the one thing they can’t scare up: some warm clothes. The book closes with Fang and Montmorency agreeing what a good thing it is that “dear little Derek / would rather just sit, / and go / knittety / knittety / knittety / knit!” And Derek himself seems to be pleased enough to have finally found his place. Blackwood conveys an important message about appreciation of differences without being didactic, and Argent’s illustrations are charming. They also add some additional humor; there’s just something about the knitted underpants that makes me giggle.
Knitty Kitty, by David Elliott, illustrated by Christopher Denise.
“Clickety-click. / Tickety-tick.” A grandmotherly cat, complete with half-glasses perched on her nose and a cozy red shawl, sits in an armchair by the fire, knitting up a hat, a scarf, and mittens for three little kittens to wear while playing outside. They’re warm and cozy during the day, but having dressed their snowman in the knitwear, they find themselves chilly and uncomfortable in their sleeping basket at bedtime. Knitty Kitty, of course, has a solution; she curls up along with them in the basket. Denise’s acrylic and ink-on-paper illustrations depict a quaint little country cottage. While Knitty Kitty herself is very human-like, the kittens definitely act like kittens. They pounce on tails, wrestle with the mittens, and poke curiously at a stray ball of yarn. It’s easy to feel the energy of the three little kittens contrasted with the cozy room. A lovely twist on the Three Little Kittens nursery rhyme, this would be a good choice for a bedtime story.
I’ve been working on a big project in the Picture Book section at my library lately. It’s made me think about the fact that you can find a picture book for just about any topic you can imagine. Including, of course, knitting. And spinning. And weaving. (I haven’t found crochet yet, but I’m sure I will.)
Being me, I was drawn to the yarny yarns. Want to hear about a few of them? Of course you do! You know, books make fantastic holiday presents for the kids (and adults, for that matter) in your life. I checked all of these out from my library for review. The Amazon links don’t net anything for me, in case anyone is wondering, since they’re not affiliate links.
The Surprise by Sylvia Van Ommen.
Originally published in the Netherlands as Verrassing, this is a wordless picture book. That’s right, no words, just pictures. Give this one to a pre-reader and have her tell you what’s happening as a scooter-riding sheep turns her own wool into a special sweater for a friend. From shearing to spinning to knitting, it’s all there in the brightly-colored gouache illustrations.
Feeding the Sheep, by Leda Schubert, with pictures by Andrea U’Ren
Step by step, through the seasons of a year, a mother transforms her sheep’s wool into a sweater for her daughter. In each watercolor spread, the little girl asks, “What are you doing?” and gets a brief explanation. By the end of the book, the little girl is ready to take on the tasks herself. This one is especially good for a spinner-to-be.
Farmer Brown Shears his Sheep: a Yarn about Wool, by Teri Sloat, with illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott.
This adorable book is the third in a series about Farmer Brown, and it seems to be sadly out of print. After being shorn and left with only fuzz in the chilly Spring air, the sheep follow Farmer Brown around as he takes the wool to be dyed and spun into yarn. The perplexed sheep end up tangled in the yarn before Farmer Brown realizes what’s going on, but all ends happily once he knits each of them a colorful, comfy cardigan to wear. The bouncy rhythm and easy rhyme, plus the giggle-inducing pictures, make this a winning picture book, so I’m sad to see that it’s only available through third-party sellers on Amazon, and not at all at Powell’s. Get it second-hand, or check it out from your local library to share.