KNIT YOUR BIT: A WORLD WAR I STORY

by Nancy Bo Flood on March 14, 2013

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KNIT YOUR BIT: A WORLD WAR I STORY

by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia

“We  knit all afternoon, and the next day too.
By the third day, the pressure was on…
Nick was still clicking away, though the edges of his muffler were
all zigzaggy because he kept adding stitches or dropping them.
I’d finished one sock yesterday ….”

Mikey’s Dad is fighting in the war overseas. During World War I, while fathers were “over there, in battle” many Americans on the Home Front, including school children, were learning to knit. Why knitting and why because of a war?  Americans were knitting hats, socks, mufflers and sweaters for troops who were freezing in the trenches in Europe.

Mikey’s sister, Ellie, was knitting a hat to send to their Dad.  Mikey wants to do something, but NOT KNIT.  “Knitting is for girls.” Mikey states.

“No, it’s not,” Ellie argues and shows her brother the newspaper’s front page. “Look at these fireman. And even President Wilson keeps sheep on the White House lawn for wool.”

Mikey and his friends reluctantly take on a knitting challenge when the girls in the classroom DARE them to learn to knit. And then the big three-day knit-in at New York City’s Central Park is announced. What else could the boys do but join the big contest and do their part?  Maybe they would out-knit the “Purl Girls!”

The historical events are real.  The story of Mikey – his family and friends – provides an engaging story as Mikey learns how every bit does count when people work together towards a common goal.

Deborah Hopkinson’s Author’s Note explains that during WWI, in July of 1918, the Navy League Comforts Committee sponsored a three day “Knit-In” at New York City’s Central Park. This Knit-In becomes the climax of this picture book story in which Mikey and his friends are teased into competing against Ellie and her friends, The Purl Girls.  The boys do get out-knitted (and a little out-witted) by the girls, but the main character, Mikey, does knit one perfect sock. At first he is disappointed in his efforts and thinks this one sock is of no value until he meets a soldier who has returned from the war – a soldier with only one leg.

This simple story stirs up many important thoughts for us all to think and talk about as today’s soldiers – fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters – are returning from our country’s ten-year conflict in the Middle East.  KNIT YOUR BIT is an engaging, important story to share with family or students.

Putnam, February 2013

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