Saturday, May 25, 2013

World War I Story Inspires Students

Knit your Bit was an inspired pick for my language groups this week. Once again, I have our school librarian, Allison Brown, to thank for locating the book and our parents’ club for donating it. With Memorial Day coming on Monday, this World War I story by Deborah Hopkinson was a great choice. Steven Guarnaccia’s illustrations were engaging. They drew my students into the story-world with cheery colors and expressive faces.

Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story

A few of the kids tried their hand at illustrating some scenes.

One clever child thought a snowflake-style sock might look like a knitted one from the story.

This historical fiction takes place in 1917 when the United States entered World War I. The soldiers’ clothes weren’t adequate to face the harsh winter conditions so the Red Cross stepped in and alerted the nation.  Soon men, women and children across the country picked up knitting needles and clicked away to produce warm clothing for the soldiers. They knitted in classrooms, churches and even on the subway. Knitting clubs formed, knitting bees popped up, and on July 30, 1918 a three-day “Knit-In” was held at Central Park in New Your City. That provided the model for the Knitting Bee of Knit your Bit.

 This first person picture book begins with Mikey’s father departing for the war.

            When Pop left to be a soldier, I wanted to go with him.
                        “I’m brave,” I told Pop.
            “I know, Mikey,” he said, patting my shoulder. “And you’ll need to be, ‘cause it takes just as much courage to stay behind.”

Mikey discovered a new kind of courage when, on a dare, he joined a knitting competition. It was the Boy’s Knitting Brigade against the Purl Girls. Before the knitting bee battle began, Mikey’s brigade had to learn how to knit. The girls, on the other hand, were experienced knitters. This three-day competition had its ups and downs and zigs and zags but in the end, well, I won’t take you there, you’ll just have to read the book to discover the winner. From my students’ perspective, and mine, the readers of this book are the real winners. It is a touching story and need not be saved for Memorial Day.

Toward the end of the book, a wounded soldier wandered by Mikey struggling with his knitting needles; I struggled to keep my voice from breaking as I read their interaction through a watery-eyed blur (it must have been the pollen in the air).

The author’s note at the back of this book gives historical information and a couple of great websites if you’re inclined toward further research. One tid bit new to me was the discovery that there are still groups of people knitting for soldiers today. You can find out more here:

After reading this story, my students talked a little about Memorial Day, but they talked more of how people can help each other. Landen likes to help people learn to play new games, Eleazar helps friends when they fall on the playground, and Darius thinks it’s important to help people get food when they’re hungry. Amelia told me that her sister, Lilah, is doing something similar to Mikey in the story. She and a friend have joined their school-bus driver to knit scarves for the homeless in our community. Like Mikey, they’ve discovered we can all contribute something to the world, we can all “Knit our Bit” and change the texture of our world.


  1. I love historical fiction and real history even more. Great review and I will be checking this one out. I had no idea...

  2. I just took this one back from the library! I love knitting & enjoyed this historical-for-kids take on it (though Rilla of Ingleside is the WWI sock knitter who'll always come first to my mind.)

    1. Thanks for the reminder about Rilla of Ingleside. I might have to pull that one out for my older students.

  3. This looks like a fantastic book! Thank you so much for sharing about it. I can't wait to read it!
    Tina @ Mommynificent

  4. You talking about getting blurry-eyed, made me blurry-eyed! Love, love, love this story. It merges the horror of war with the hope and generosity of humankind. I have to admit that I kind of want to start a knitting club myself using Purl Girls! I love that name! Thanks for sharing in the Kid Lit Blog Hop once again Jeanette. :)

    1. Thank you for stopping in: your comment made my day. Go Purl Girls!