Three Balls of Wool

Henriqueta Cristina, trans. from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, illus. by Yara Kono. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59270-220-6
Produced in association with Amnesty International, this allegorical story follows a family that flees a “warm, sunny country” beset by vaguely described political troubles for a “clean and tidy” nation where “all the children go to school.” When buying sweaters for her children, the narrator’s mother realizes that only three colors are available: gray, green, and orange. “They look like an army marching in their uniforms,” she whispers to her husband. She then unravels the sweaters and combines the yarn to knit new ones in bold checks, zigzags, and stripes—surprising the town’s residents and starting a fashion trend. Except for a handful of pink-skinned children, Kono sticks to a limited palette of gray, green, orange, and black in her illustrations—blocky, screenprintlike images dotted with Xs, Os, and other characters that evoke knitting symbols. It’s a quiet and sensitively observed look at a family’s efforts to stay safe in uncertain times. An afterword reveals the story’s inspiration in a family that fled Portugal’s dictatorship in the 1960s and settled in Prague; the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights appears in full in the final pages. Ages 3–9. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 02/01/2017
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