The Fall 2008 issue of Spin-Off magazine reviewed a number of children's books with fiber themes, including one title that is already a favorite at our house: Woolbur, by Leslie Helakoski (illustrated by Lee Harper). I thought I'd start reviewing them, too. I first heard about this title on Brenda Dayne's podcast, Cast-On.
This story stars a sheep named Woolbur who marches to the beat of his own drum. He doesn't want to stay with the herd; he'd rather run with the dogs. He doesn't want to be sheared; he'd rather grow his wool long. He doesn't want to dye wool; he dyes himself instead. His parents are flabbergasted and anxious about this nonconformity. Grandpaa tells them not to worry. Finally Maa and Paa have had enough and sit Woolbur down for a talk. They insist that he be like everyone else.
Woolbur thinks this over and then teaches all the other sheep to run with the dogs, grow their wool, dye their own fleece, etc. Woolbur is a creative and resourceful sheep! His parents despair that now everyone looks like Woolbur and acts like Woolbur. But guess what? Woolbur has already started doing other things. He just can't conform.
This is a cute story told with lilting repetition that children memorize quickly. My 4-year-old "reads" it to me often. Harper's illustrations are whimsical and colorful. Most of them depict fiber activities that are true to life - shearing, carding, spinning, dying, weaving. The only activity that isn't represented is knitting.
That said, Woolbur engages in an unidentifiable fiber activity at the very end of the book. He uses two long needles, but they aren't knitting needles - they have eyes through which the yarn is drawn. He has a ball of yarn attached to each needle, with seven other lengths of yarn knotted to one of the needs and extending outward (kind of like a warp, except attached to nothing at the other end). Because the illustrator accurately depicted the other fiber arts, I can't imagine that she thinks this is knitting. It is probably a new genre of Woolbur's own creation. It has been hard for me to explain to my children that this isn't knitting, though! The two long needles throw them off.
As I mentioned earlier, this book is a family favorite. I have an extra copy in reserve to give to Katie when she is old enough. I wanted to give her Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep: A Yarn About Wool (maybe I'll review that another time), but by the time I wanted to buy it, it was out of print and selling for big bucks online. I won't make that mistake again! Now I purchase multiples of A-grade fiber-themed children's books, and save them until kids are the right age. Katie turns 3 next month. It may be time. This post destroys the surprise for her mother, but I'm pretty sure Katie doesn't read this blog herself!