January is a wooly time of year. And if you can’t knit (like me) some mittens for your kittens, the least you can do is read those kittens some knitting-themed books. Hand-knit hats will keep your keppie toasty according to Mrs. Goldman in A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This warm story will remind readers to look for ways to practice good deeds (and accept interesting gifts graciously).
In my experience as designated reader, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett is a perfectly paced fable that packs a lot of drama (and humor) into very few words. Jon Klassen’s yarn-textured illustrations are droll and wonderful. In this story, knitting is a gentle act of generosity with the power to transform a drab, chilled world.
Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosnol fits my wintry mood exactly. A person will go to great lengths for a little space (in this story, space as in outer space)–only to want to return to the warm heart of home and family (armed with woolens for everyone).
For middle-grade readers (knitters and non-knitters alike), Danielle Davis’s Zinnia and the Bees is a quirky, sweet yarn-bomb of a book (see my earlier review here).
I still can’t knit, but I did recently attempt some French knitting/spool knitting (I found some good instructional photos at Lion Brand Yarns). It’s pleasantly addictive to do while watching Netflix although I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the long ropes of yarn I was creating. Captain Wonderpaws seemed to like his rainbow collar . . .
I’m not a knitter. Nor a crocheter (besides some basics, which I learned just last winter). But the charming middle-grade novel Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis made me want to be both. Zinnia is a seventh-grade yarn bomber intent on putting an “exuberant sweater on the whole world.”
But when her yarn habit gets her into trouble, she finds that her beloved older brother and frequent accomplice has gone MIA. And her mother, Philomena Flossdrop, D.D.S., seems more devoted to dental hygiene and do-gooder community activism than to Zinnia.
Things unravel further when a swarm of runaway bees take up residence in the messy nest of curls atop Z’s head. She manages to disguise her beehive from most eyes but a boy named Birch takes notice. The story tangles and twists in unexpected ways before Zinnia, with a little help from her friends, comes to a new understanding of hive and home.
(By the way, these magical, sweater-clad trees can be found in a grove along the Minuteman Bikeway in Arlington, Massachusetts thanks to a community art project and a gaggle of nimble makers known at the Arlington Knitters Brigade (which includes a few of my friends–you know who you are, Jennifer and Janet–and Holly!)
Here is the shoebox house the kids made in my library from scraps and bits last year. We are back in school (as of yesterday) and ready to resume construction. Each room represents a different fairy tale. You may be able to discern these tell-tale details:
Jack’s room (from his beanstalk)
The candy-laden gingerbread kitchen that lured Hansel and Gretel
Little Red’s bedroom complete with her hoodie hanging in the wardrobe
The three bears’ pudding cooling on their table and their well-made beds upstairs (pre-Goldilocks rampage)
I’m not sure where we go from here, but surely my students will let me know . . . stay tuned.
I haven’t made anything with matchboxes in a while, so I was overdue. This mini market was inspired by something similar (I think) that I spotted in the wilds of the internet but then couldn’t find again. Maybe it was just a dream (but a very particular and miniature kind of dream).
This tiny marketplace has a vaguely Mexican look thanks to the some bright 2″ origami paper and a nifty hole punch I got my hands on. Love that hole punch something fierce. I made a counter for the ice cream shop out of card stock and striped tape. Ditto the little table in the coffee shop (but this time I used checkered tape). The itty ice cream cones, donuts and penguins come from my son’s Japanese eraser collection (borrowed without permission!)
Who wouldn’t awake, hobbled with aches, after sleeping on this perfect pea? Even with the assorted mattresses, 22 in all?
I promised to post photos of the cardboard box storybook house the grade schoolers made in my library this year. And only months later, I’m keeping my word! Each room was paired with a fairy tale and kid-created with tape, glue stick, thread, and recyclables: scraps of fabric, felt, boxes, egg cartons. This room, of course, belongs to the Princess of The Princess and the Pea.
We read Lauren Child’s version of the tale for inspiration. (Lauren herself constructed exquisite miniature rooms and paper doll cut outs to illustrate the story.) Then we savored the spin-offs: The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane Auch and Mini Grey’s The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be.
The students used thread or embroidery floss and sewed pieces of felt or fabric scraps together. This involved a bit of prep–pre-threading needles so the kids could get to work. The bed is a paper-covered box with clothespin bed posts.
And this little table and chairs adds luster to the princess’s room, I think. Her crown is on a chest of drawers against the back wall.