Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Boys Don't Knit

Boys Don't Knit

Tom Easton
For ages 12 and up
Feiwel & Friends, 2015   ISBN: 978-1250053312

Ben Fletcher is the kind of boy that bullies love to persecute. He is a self-confessed geek who loves to read, does not like sports or cars, hates to break the rules, and adores math. Until not long ago Lloyd Manning and his two sidekicks made Ben’s life at school pretty miserable. Then Ben began hanging out with Joz, Gex, and Freddie, and ever since then Manning has left him alone. Ben really appreciates the fact that his new friends save him from beaten up, but he also has to admit that the three boys are “stupid people.” They love to do things that are “mad/dangerous/illegal,” and inevitably Ben is the one who tries to discourage them from doing said things. Unfortunately, they very rarely listen to a word he says.

The whole mess starts when Joz, Gex and Freddie decide that they need to steal some booze from the supermarket so that they can get can get into Anaya’s end-of-term party.  Ben does not like parties, and he does not want to steal anything from anywhere, and yet, somehow, he ends up stealing a bottle of Martini Rosso. While the boys are cycling home with four bottles of booze in their backpacks, Ben ends up accidentally provoking Mrs. Frensham, the local lollipop lady who just happens to hate cyclists. She hits Ben on the head with her sign, he swerves (which causes a car to crash into another car) and then he loops back to crash into Mrs. Frensham. Thanks to this appalling event Ben is now on probation.

The terms of Ben’s probation require that Ben has to stay out of trouble, which is no mean feat when your friends are juvenile delinquents in the making. He also has to keep a journal, attend a class at the local community college, and work for Mrs. Frensham as part of the Giving Something Back program.

Ben already keeps a diary, so writing “journal” entries is no sweat for him. Taking a class at the college is more complicated. He does not want to take his father’s car maintenance class because he hates cars. The beginner Microsoft Office class will be boring. The remaining choices are knitting and pottery. Pottery might be okay, but knitting would be even better because Jessica Swallow, a really gorgeous teacher, will be teaching it. Knitting it is. Of course, Ben does not want anyone to know that he is taking knitting lessons. Boys don’t knit, and so he has to make sure that no one finds out. Even if that means that he has to lie through his teeth.

This is exactly what he does. The only people who know that Ben is taking the class are his fellow knitters, the teacher (who is NOT Miss Swallow after all), and his mum. The amazing thing is that Ben quickly discovers that he really likes knitting. Knitting is very mathematical and this appeals to his sense of order. Not only that, but he is really good at it. In fact, he is a natural who can follow a knitting pattern and he can also create his own patterns.

Ben tries very hard to keep his knitting life separate from his everyday life, but this becomes harder and harder to do, and the lies he tells to cover up his secret hobby get more and more tangled together. At some point in the not too distant future Ben is going to have to come out of the knitting closet before he is outed.

This hilarious book tells the story of a clever, sensitive, and creative boy who falls in love with the art of knitting, and who desperately does not want anyone to know. He does not want to disappoint his dad, or get laughed at by his classmates. He also does not want to get into any more trouble because, as he admits, he is not “cut out for organized crime.” He is just too “straight as an arrow” to go around breaking the rules. The thing is that on a personal level he is breaking lots of rules; he is living a lie, and when you live a lie your life inevitably gets very messy indeed.