This author/illustrator uses each of her considerable talents to the great benefit of all who are lucky enough to share the journey of Nell the knitter, from her crushed idea of her own voice (a bully said her voice was like a "cricket with a pillow over its head") to her pleasure in sharing her knitting knowledge with her friends. Nell has found a creative (and generous) outlet by knitting lots of scarves, hats, and mittens. She considerately gives them to family members, as well as babies in the hospital, children in "countries whose leaders are at war," and even her brother. The genius of the watercolor illustrations is in how they convey the depths of Nell's personality without a line of text. The very first page simply says, "This is Nell." And then we see her knitting all through her day: at the bus stop, in class (note the rueful smile), walking with her dog, and at day's end as she falls asleep. After the hurtful remark about her voice, "…Nell doesn't talk a lot.", we see her sitting in class just smiling weakly while the rest of the class is eagerly waving hands for a turn to speak. She is an excellent listener and a thoughtful knitter, but she is not treated kindly by her classmates, so she becomes shyer and quieter. At the local county fair awards are given for all sorts of things (pretty cows, tasty pies, art projects, etc.), and no one is surprised when Nell's sweater entry wins a blue ribbon, but they are impressed when the mayor awards her a special honor for "outstanding efforts in the service of others." Now her selflessness is made concretely apparent and the other children (even the boys) are eager to have her teach them to knit. She does so quite well and with greatgrace. Of course, classroom readings of this thought provoking book will prompt excellent discussions. Children will recognize the impact of thoughtless remarks and self-centered reactions, but they will also see the joy in doing "the right thing" and passing it on. Nell's classmates are turned around very quickly in the storyline but the message is clear: there is great satisfaction to be had in doing things for others. Here's hoping that a lot of people are listening as closely as Nell does. 2006, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 5 to 9.
Gr 2-4-Nell is a shy girl who finds solace in knitting and purling. After being told that her voice sounds "like a cricket with a pillow over its head," she retreats into her shell even more. She loves to knit mittens, scarves, and hats for her family, for herself, and for people in need. When her friends do not show interest in a sweater that she has made, she decides to enter it in the county fair. She wins first prize and is also awarded a special medal for outstanding efforts in the service of others. Her family is proud of her and her friends are amazed. After the fair, Nell begins to use her "happy cricket's voice," especially when she is teaching her friends to knit. The watercolor illustrations are soft and bright and surrounded by white space. The layout varies from nine tiny pictures to a single illustration per page. Although smiles abound, the illustrations reflect the protagonist's quietness. A good addition where there is a demand for books about shyness.-Linda Staskus, Parma Regional Library, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The school life of pleasant Nell was changed when another student told her "she had a voice like a cricket with a pillow over its head." After that, she rarely speaks, but continues to knit and listen to friends, and then she enters a hand-knit sweater in the county fair. The use of vibrant and complementary watercolors in full-page spreads or in small conversational squares attests to Nell's bright and giving nature. Figures are stylized with wide faces and stick-like limbs. At the fair, Nell applauds the medal winners and receives a blue ribbon for her sweater. But her family and friends are amazed at her service award from the Mayor. Now, Nell talks with "her happy cricket's voice," listens and encourages her knitting friends. Nell's unusual tenacity and generous way of coping with a bully add enlightenment to an all-too-common occurrence in children's lives everywhere. (Picture book. 4-8)