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Unearthing history

Local author's newest book details a cross-country knitting effort during WWI


If World War I lives on today mostly within the crusty pages of school textbooks, Deborah Hopkinson sees it as her job to add color and perspective to the nearly 100-year-old event. by: SUBMITTED - DEBORAH HOPKINSON

The award-winning West Linn author’s new book, “Knit Your Bit,” is a 32-page historical fiction picture book that brings to life a little known aspect of the Great War: the collective knitting effort that spread across the United States, providing much-needed sweaters, scarfs, socks and hats for soldiers overseas.

The idea for the book — which follows a protagonist named Mikey through his quest to help his father overseas — came when Hopkinson was working for the American Red Cross in Honolulu and came across an archived photo of firemen knitting during the war. She felt a jolt of curiosity, and with further research she learned that knitting projects had occurred all across the country. by: SUBMITTED - West Linn author Deborah Hopkinson recently released a book documenting the important role of knitting during World War I.

Clearly, an activity generally associated with women had been embraced by both genders during the war, and Mikey’s character was meant to reflect that. At the epicenter of the book’s story is the real life 1918 Central Park Knitting Bee, in which the fictional boys and girls in Mikey’s class face off in a competition to see who can knit the most.

“It’s something that’s still going on today,” Hopkinson said. “There’s still ‘Knit Your Bit’ projects that happen for soldiers in Afghanistan, and they’re being organized sometimes by libraries.”

An author’s note near the end of the book details how people can get involved today, if they so choose. But the book is meant to provide education, too, for a younger generation that knows very little about the first World War.

“A lot of times kids don’t know what World War I was,” Hopkinson said. “The anniversary is coming up not so far from now, so it’s a good chance to remember a previous time.”

The war, which was centered in Europe, began July 28, 1914, and ended Nov. 11, 1918.

Hopkinson’s previous book, “Annie and Helen,” is a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Her next project, “The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death and a Boy Called Eel,” is set to be released later this year in October.




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