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Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World)
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Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World)

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3.73  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  28 reviews
In search of a freer place where every child can go to school, a family moves from Fascist Portugal to Communist Czechoslovakia. Different as this new country is, however, it is far from ideal. In this new, gray world, the lack of freedom is felt in the simplest things, such as the colors one can and cannot wear.

Yara Kono was born in Brazil. Her first drawings were made on
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Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Enchanted Lion Books (first published March 2015)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  127 ratings  ·  28 reviews


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Abigail
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Children's Stories About the Refugee Experience and/or About Human Rights
Portuguese educator and first-time author Henriqueta Cristina spins the story of a family who must leave their oppressive home country in search of freedom in this powerful picture-book. At first things seem well in their new country - all the children can go to school, and there is no poverty - but soon the uniformity of this new society begins to erode their happiness. A skilled knitter, the mother of the family begins to unravel the children's monotone sweaters, recreating them as vibrant mul ...more
Hannah
THREE BALLS OF WOOL is not just a refugee story. It is also a lesson in how daring to stand out (and stand up) can change the world around you. Kono's illustrations, imbued with childlike innocence, subtly shift in color to reflect the mood of Cristina's tale. Extensive back matter makes this book a must for anyone teaching the refugee experience and human rights.
Kristina Jean Lareau
A powerful story told through color. The forward and afterward would enliven any discussion. This would be a fun book to critique further.
Linda
From Enchanted Lion books and Amnesty International comes a wonderful book about a family who wants to move to a freer place where every child can go to school. One cannot tell within the story where they move, but other information tells this is about a family who moves from Fascist Portugal to Communist Czechoslovakia. In a simple, but effective story written by Henriqueta Cristina and a clever graphic design by Yara Kono shows what happens during the move. The choices are limited. For school ...more
Tasha
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Published in partnership with Amnesty International, this picture book uses colors of wool to speak to the conformity required under Communist regimes. The book focuses on a family who flees their home country in the hopes of finding a better, kinder place to live. At first their new country is good. The children can go to school and the parents are less worried. But steadily things change and soon there are only three colors of sweaters for the children to wear. The mother of the family though, ...more
K
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What fascinating discovery one can experience reading the history behind Amnesty International from this children's book, to read a lesser known story about Porteguese fascism, and to experience what life was like in Communist Central Europe through this book. This book would pair beautifully with Peter Sis' The Wall for a historical study of life in communist countries, and also, the adult book written by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning. This book contains an excellen ...more
Earl
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was interested in reading this book every time I saw a glowing review of it on blogs. I was pleasantly surprised it was another book focused on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the thirty articles are included in the back) since I seem to have come across a couple of them this year- My Little Book of Big Freedoms: The Human Rights Act in Pictures by Chris Riddell and Imagine by John Lennon.

A family becomes refugees after leaving their oppressive country. In their new home where there
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BiblioBickie
Use the story itself as a simple story about refugees/immigrants and how they have agency to make their new lives more palatable. Discuss the idea of conformity and how people like to express themselves; also, thinking "outside the box."
Older children can review the surrounding materials in the book and identify the symbolism in the story regarding communism; what other conditions do people experience in more authoritarian countries? Why is free education for all important? Why would governments
...more
Aolund
This book tells the story of an overlooked aspect of World War II history, as a Portuguese family flees their dictatorial government for Romania and Czechoslovakia, only to find repression there as well. While a historical note at the end of the book tells more about the story’s actual historical basis, the tale itself is simplified, with the family’s participation in the Prague Spring symbolized by the mother disrupting the societal repression by knitting sweaters in nonconformist patterns. Bet ...more
Juliana Lee
A girl tells a story of how her family escaped a poor place where children were not educated (Portugal) to a cold place where everyone wore the same three solid colored sweaters (Czechoslovakia). The children went to school, but the parents were no happier here than they were in their old home. One day their mother unravels three sweaters and makes new sweaters for her children using all three colors in patterns. All the other kids want those too, soon everyone at the park is unraveling old swea ...more
Emily
3.5 stars.

I went into this book not knowing anything about it, but curious as to how 3 balls of wool "can change the world." I was surprised to learn a lot about Amnesty International and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which I had not known much about before. The story was a fairly deep analogy for the loss of personal freedom under communist regimes, with reference to the "Prague Spring." I feel like the metaphor will sail over most childrens' heads, but I enjoyed it. The illustrati
...more
Joan Marie
Published in partnership with Amnesty International.
Love the color palette and artistic style, end pages.
What a story to share and discuss!

The foreword by Cynthia Gabriel Walsh, Senior Director, organizing Unit, amnesty International USA gives the history of an important declaration - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, something Amnesty International defends. Back matter gives the history of Portugal from 1962 to 1974, from a dictatorship to a democracy. The back matter also holds The Un
...more
Heather
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This book on asylum seekers is very apropos, but sentimental and sweet in a way I think only older children will understand--young children may just see this as an uneventful book about knitting. Recommended grades 4-12, for use in a school history classroom.
Inge
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: picture-books
Not lots here to keep child readers engaged. The messages about Communism and Fascism are deeply hidden. Maybe a good picture book for older readers, if it's paired with a lot of additional research.
Erin
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
There is great info in the back matter, but the story itself would definitely go over kids’ heads without spending a lot of time translating the back matter for young readers. The story feels purposely vague and I found it rather confusing until I read the back matter myself.
Beth
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
The story was great — I liked the voice of the child and the history as depicted by knitting colors. The educational text before and after muddle the message — apparently all the sweaters were burned a few pages after the end of the book.
Alyssa Gudenburr
A story about immigration and knitting. A great read aloud for older elementary children.
Maria
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Generally enjoyed the illustration style, but showing the knitting needles pointing down was so jarring.
Dana
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is for older children - upper elementary through high school. The story of the wool sweaters is symbolic of the conformity demanded by communism.
Andrea
Feb 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Bleh. Total propaganda. The forward was poorly written, and the content of the book lacked real depth and had a very obvious agenda.
Miss Sarah
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
A heavy story about a family fleeing communism and landing in another country where only three clothing colors are allowed. Can they change? Elementary.
Desiree
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love the way the author makes integration a process of infusing some of your old life into your new life.
KieraK
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Knitting and communism. This story had the kids and I both captivated multiple times.
Diane
This story is based on the tale of a family who left Portugal in the late 1960s to flee the dictatorship there. They lived in Algeria, Romania and finally Czechoslovakia.
Jota-p
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eu gostei desta história, que acaba por fazer sentido quando lemos a nota explicativa final. Sem essa nota explicativa, talvez não conseguíssemos compreender a história na sua totalidade (por exemplo, por que razão teriam as pessoas de desfazer as camisolas existentes em vez de comprarem simplesmente outros novelos de lã de outras cores?), mas não deixa de ser uma história inspiradora que nos faz relembrar que, com poucos instrumentos, podemos fazer a diferença, e ajudar a tornar o mundo mais co ...more
Gergana
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Mar 17, 2020
Elizabeth Hassinger
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Kristi
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