Thursday, November 29, 2012

Knitting and Children's Literature

Have you ever noticed that when you get serious about buying a new car, you see your car on the road everywhere?

I experience something similar with knitting. When I began knitting, more than ten years ago, it seemed like yarn shops and handknits on strangers popped up everywhere I went. Lately, I've noticed knitting in a different field... children's literature.

Once upon a time I was an elementary special education teacher. One of my many responsibilities was to teach children to read and love to read. This was my absolute favorite part of teaching. I miss it tremendously, but now have the good fortune to teach my own children about the beauty of reading. My oldest, Emma, who is now a mere 3.5 years old, loves books. No. She loves books. Our house is cluttered with children's literature, some acquired from my teaching days but mostly additions from family and our inability to say no when it comes to bookstores and book orders.

When quiet and calm (and not on the playground), Emma can be quite observant and point out some surprising observations while "reading." Not long ago, we were reading a book from the library by one of my favorite children's author/illustrators, Jan Brett, about a curious hedgehog who gets a stocking stuck on his prickles. Early in the story, Emma pointed out, "that stocking looks just like Daddy's Christmas stocking that you knitted for him. Look! It has white and red yarn too!" Okay, so if you saw the sock from the book and my husband's stocking, you too would be able to make that connection. But, hey, she's only 3! And she's my kid. So of course I'm going to think everything she does is amazing.

That being said, she did draw my attention to the fact there are several books out there which feature knitted items or the act of knitting. In fact, it has become quite popular in the last few years. You may be surprised at how many of these books are available at your local library. The only books that I could not check out from my library were the collection by Joanna Johnson and the book by Alana Dakos.

I know you are aching to read this list. So here it is... just a few books that feature knitting and/or knitted garments:

Goodnight Moon (1947) by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd
"...And good night to the old lady whispering hush." Look closer. That old rabbit is knitting!


Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone (1997) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998) by J. K. Rowling

Who doesn't remember Ron's and Harry's knitted Christmas sweaters with an enormous "R" and "H" on them, made by Mrs. Weasley? And what about her knitting needles working away without the aide of hands?

The Mitten (1989), The Hat (1997), and The Three Snow Bears (2007) -just to name a few- by Jan Brett

Her books are bursting with handknits inspired by classic Scandinavian color schemes (see The Hat) and dense stitch patterns (see The Mitten). 

Knitting Nell (2006) by Julie Jersild Roth

Who wouldn't love a book about a little girl who knits all of the time? This quiet character reminds me of the silent knitters at knitting groups. They are there, stitching away, taking everything in.
Woolbur (2008) by Leslie Helakoski and illustrated by Lee Harper

This book has a story centered around an unconventional lamb who doesn't quite fit in with this sheepy friends. It features pre-knitting necessities: shearing, cutting, spinning and weaving.

Phoebe's Sweater (2010), Freddie's Blanket (20122) and Phoebe's Birthday (2012) by Joanna Johnson and illustrated by Eric Johnson

This is a collection of well written and sweetly illustrated books. In the first book, Phoebe's Sweater, Phoebe is about to become a big sister. Her mother knits her a sweater to make her feel extra special. Wouldn't this make a lovely gift for a soon-to-be big sister? There is even a knitting pattern for Phoebe's red sweater.

Spud and Chloe: On the Farm (2011) by Susan B. Anderson

This is a slightly unusual children's book because it is a "knit and read" book, brought to you by the queen of ittty-bitty knitting. Susan B. Anderson created a collection of knitting patterns featuring the Spud & Chloe yarn company's icon, Spud the sheep and Chloe the little girl, along with a barnyard full of animal friends and accessories. Throughout the book and additionally at the end, is a sweet little story (complete with dialog and illustrations) about a small adventure with these characters.

Extra Yarn (2012) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

In this story, a little girl named Annabelle knits for everyone in her town with an endless supply of yarn. Now if only life had an endless supply of yarn!

Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf (2012) by Alana Dakos and illustrated by Neesha Hudson

Hot off the presses is a new children's book written by the knitwear designer, Alana Dakos, from Never Not Knitting. It is about a little girl who strives to discover her special talent for a school event. Her mother teaches her how to knit and after much practice and many mistakes, Annie succeeds. There is also a knitting pattern available for the famous Swiss Cheese Scarf. In this podcast you can hear the author's daughter read an excerpt from the book. It is so sweet to hear young children read!

So which book will you be checking out to share with that special little person in your life?

Happy reading!


  1. Ok, you know I LOVE books (must be the teacher in me). Daniel has Woolbur and whenever we read Goodnight Moon I point out the old lady knitting in hopes that someday he'll recognize it as well. I mean, 3 months old is never too young to start right?

    On another funny note, one of Jan Brett's books (I think it's the Home for Christmas one) has an elf knitting a sock on the edge of one of the pages. When I taught Preschool I would knit during nap time and when Christmas rolled around and I read the kids this book, one of them pointed out, "Hey, they're knitting a sock like you do!"

    1. That's a cute story, Andrea. I'll have to check that book out. I'm convinced that exposing books to babies is an excellent idea!