The King’s Ship / If You Want to Knit Some Mittens

The King’s Ship
Valerio Vidali

This story has its origins in the true history of a 17th century Swedish warship named the Vasa, built as a symbol of the Swedish king’s greatness when the country was at war with Poland.

Long, long ago a rich and powerful king had everything he wanted, other than one thing – a ship. All the carpenters in the kingdom are summoned and ordered to build a great ship for the king. They set to work felling trees 

and constructing but when the king sees what they’ve made he declares it too small. The carpenters are ordered to build a bigger one and do so. This time the completed ship meets the size requirements but something is lacking. First it’s cannons to make the ship terrifying but even when those are loaded the king isn’t satisfied. He wants things of beauty aboard and so on go his highness’s marble statues. 

No doubt readers will see where this is going but not the king. He is very happy with his big, terrifying, beautiful ship. Now comes an order for everyone to come and admire the thing …

Vidali’s cautionary tale is imbued with a sense of tongue-in-cheek playfulness and mischief, both verbal and visual; his straightforward, spare telling with that final twist in combination with his droll illustrations of the construction process work harmoniously towards the final revelation.

If You Want to Knit Some Mittens
Laura Purdie Salas and Angela Matteson
Boyds Mills Press

If as the title says, you want to knit some mittens, the first thing you should do is get a sheep. Of course you do! Especially if you happen to be at the apple stall with dad and spot it in a field just behind. Then having taken it back home in Dad’s truck, she needs keeping warm all through the cold winter. This mitten making is no quick job as by now is clear and in the meantime the sheep can grow a thick coat, which come spring will need attention.

And of course, the fleece that’s been sheared will have to be washed, dried and untangled (carding this is called). Next comes spinning and by the way, a spinning wheel has a soporific effect on your sheep.

Now comes the consideration of what colour should the mittens be. Happily despite your chosen colour not being that the sheep has naturally, you’ve a place to grow marigolds. Some waiting follows and more waiting. Eventually the marigolds can be picked and sun dried – well away from lively activity needless to say. 

Dyeing the yarn comes once the marigolds have throughly dried, so soak them and place the yarn in that natural dye, hang the coloured yarn to dry and finally get out those knitting needles and click, click, click.

More waiting – who wants to wear mittens in the summer – and when winter arrives again, celebrate your ‘golden sun’ hands and off you go outside to play with your friend Sheep. Hurrah! Was it all worth it – you bet!

Wonderfully whimsical – there are some delightfully humorous tips included along with the eighteen steps – and there’s even a disclaimer on the copyright page concerning the suggestions made in the story about possible injuries should readers try to be crafty and emulate the small girl protagonist. Angela Matteson’s illustrations supply plenty more amusing details as they follow girl and sheep through the year, documenting their activities together along with occasional playful incursions by various other farm animals.

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