I believe we have a series now, people! Today I'll review another children’s book mentioned in the Fall 2008 of Spin-Off magazine (see also reviews for Woolbur and One Little Lamb).
Red Berry Wool (by Robyn Eversole, paintings by Tim Coffey, Albert Whitman & Co, 1999) is an enchanting story of a lamb named Lalo who wants to change his fleece. He admires the red wool sweater worn by his caretaker, a boy simply referred to as “Boy.” Lalo’s mother tells him that the sweater is made of their wool, so Lalo asks her how it becomes a sweater. She says, “’First, you wash the wool. Then you spin it. Then you dye the wool. Then – you knit it.’”
Of course, Lalo tries to work through each of these processes on his own. Mishaps ensue. Each time the lamb gets into trouble, the Boy rescues him and comforts him.
There are some jokes here for the fiber-literate child reader. When Lalo tries to “spin the wool,” he turns around in circles very fast (unfortunately becoming dizzy and falling off a cliff). My 6-year-old laughed uproariously and said “that’s not how you spin!” I asked him how you spin, and he mimed the foot and hand motions quite adeptly. (Oh, this mama was proud.)
Near the end of the book, Lalo asks his mother what “knit” means. She thinks very hard and replies, “’Knit means to bring things together.’” Lalo then sits down with his friend, the Boy, and together they watch the sun set. The sun turns themselves and their meadow a deep red, so Lalo is satisfied that he created his own red berry wool sweater. Before I finished reading the last page, my son got excited and exclaimed “look, it’s all red like the boy’s sweater!” Clearly the nuances of this story are accessible to a first-grader.
Before I started reading this book to my children, I thought that it would be more suitable for my older son. To my surprise, my (barely) four-year-old paid close attention, as well. He didn’t talk during the book, but he kept an eye on it. He thought about it, though, and requested it at bedtime for many days afterward. I had to renew our library copy because he continues to ask for this book every day or two.
In order to get the viewpoint of an even younger child, Kristina read this to Katie, who will be 3 years old in a few short weeks. Katie was fascinated by the snake in the story (my 4-year-old is, too). Katie and Kristina repeat the refrain along with Lalo: "Wash the wool, spin it, dye the wool, knit it." What a great way to introduce the world of fiber to a child!
Final assessment? Red Berry Wool is a keeper! I wouldn’t get it for a young 2-year-old, but this is one you want to have on your shelf for a preschooler or early reader. The paintings are delightful - colorful, whimsical, yet detailed. There is much to pore over in this fine book.