Two More by Deborah Hopkinson

August 14, 2013 § 1 Comment

Annie and Helen
Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Raul Colon
Ages 4-8
Schwartz and Wade books
New York 2012
Author’s note before cover page and includes the Braille alphabet.
Acknowledgement page at the end includes further reading and websites to learn more about Annie and Helen.

Author has a wonderful descriptive way with words!
Expressions : “Helen was like a small,wild bird, throwing herself against the bars of a dark and silent cage.”
“like someone on a windy peak trying to kindle a fire for warmth, Annie kept hoping for a spark to catch.”
“Suddenly the rush of water and the touch of Annie’s fingers flashed through Helen’s mind like lightening in a midnight sky.”
Featured interspersed throughout the book in italics are portions of Annie’s letters ‘home’ to her friend and former teacher at the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston-Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins.
It is through these descriptive and dated letter, we see how Annie’s persistence pays off relatively quickly. Her discipline and Helen’s parents willingness to let Annie help their child mean the way is clear to start doing the hard work of bringing Helen out of her own frustrating world.
While not a light-hearted story, there is joy in seeing these two people work together. Inspiring. Humbling.

Knit Your Bit
Author Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator Steven Guarnaccia
2013 G.P. Putnam’s Sons division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Historical fiction based on real events.
Deborah tells the story of people back home supporting troops in WWI by knitting. Deborah creates characters to tell of one particular event held in NYC’s Central Park in the summer of 1918.
She sets up the story with one particular family where Dad has gone to war and the son’s (main character and told in first person) desire to help support his dad. He cannot go fight but what can he do? Dad says staying home takes courage too.
So our young hero, Mikey has to choose to be courageous in trying something new. Something he probably won’t be the best at since he is inexperienced.
The illustrator does a nice job capturing the time period with clothing and hair styles. And boy can Mikey pout and frown with his arms crossed in refusal when first offered the opportunity to knit for the troops.
The idea of boys knitting seems preposterous to him and he is not even dissuaded by his sister pointing out news articles of men-including fire fighters-knitting for the cause!
But what his sister can’t accomplish, his girl classmates do as his pride gets him and some of his buddies in a contest to see who is better/faster at knitting. What was Mikey thinking?!
Mom comes to the rescue teaching the three young men.  But it is their hard work that will have to carry the day.
After grumbling Mikey gets to work.  He tells as the event approaches how he is getting pretty good at making socks while his buddies are having less success but at least keep trying.
Deborah does a great job recreating the day so that children today could relate:
Men, women and lots of girls are present and we can hear hesitant Nick whispering how they may “get laughed outta here.” Dan is distracted by the smell of food and wondering when it will be time to eat!
Knitting starts and continues over a three day period. She includes anecdotes about some of the competitors but the spotlight is on her lead character as he deals with disappointment.
One sock is done very well but the other one has a flaw that cannot be fixed without starting over. As he hits this low point and is “feeling miserable” he hears a returning soldier comment on the one perfect sock. Encouraging him to feel good about trying, the soldier then asks the boy if he has anyone over there. “All at once I missed Pop so much, my eyes stung. I wondered where he was…How could anything I do-little or big-really help?”
The soldiers words bring him out of his thoughts as he tells Mikey how nice warm socks would have felt the past winter.
As he starts to tear apart the partially completed sock the words sound that the time is up.
The classmates all have smiles and although the girls won “fair and square”, Mikey assures the girls there are no hard feelings. “Naw. Just wait until next time.”
But it is not the end of the story. The competition may be over but Mikey needs courage again. This time to approach the young soldier. What I did not say earlier is that the soldier had only one foot. So you know why Mikey wanted to find him: to give him the one perfect sock!
I like the epilogue so to speak. His friends never knit again, his sister gets even better and makes hats for all the men in their Pop’s unit. And Mikey tells us he kept at it and finally knit a pair of socks for their dad.
“He promised to wear them on the day he came home. And he did.”
Finish with a hugging dad and son.
Two pages in the back with notes about the real story of people knitting for WWI soldiers. Deborah included a song, a poster, and information on how you can get involved today with knitting for others in need.
The end papers have photos of groups of children knitting and the famous sheep on the White House lawn.

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§ One Response to Two More by Deborah Hopkinson

  • Thanks for stopping by. I sure enjoyed reading your posts and about page. We lived in Van Wert Ohio for a time. Now we are outside of Fort Worth TX. And I too am a vegetarian living with a carnivore. I posted your giveaway on my Facebook page. Hope it helps!

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