Molly Learns a Lesson

Written in 1986 by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes, Keith Skeen, and Renee Graef


Molly's school is having a contest to see which group of students can do the most to support the war effort. The boys in Molly's class decide to collect foil to use for scrap metal, and one of Molly's classmates, Alison, suggests the girls knit "hundreds and hundreds" of socks for the troops. Molly is dismayed by the idea: she's convinced there's no way that such a project is feasible or could win the contest. But the rest of the girls go along with Alison's idea and plan to have a sock-knitting party that weekend. Molly enlists Susan and Linda to help collect bottle tops instead (for scrap metal), so that the girls will have at least something to bring to the contest. Susan wonders if Molly only dislikes the idea because it's Alison's. Alison is nice, but privileged and very smart. It seems things come too easily to her, and it's hard for Molly to not feel resentful sometimes. She's still able to convince Susan and Linda to go along with her idea.

The next day, they go out collecting bottle tops, but have little success. While in Alison's neighborhood, cold and wet from the rain, they see their classmates enjoying refreshments and hot chocolate. Just as they're about to go to more houses to ask for bottle tops, Alison's mother sees them, and they pretend they were just about to join the knitting party. Molly soon realizes that she was right: the girls don't know how to knit socks well enough to have made any yet. But when one girl throws down her work in frustration, Molly comes up with an idea: they can take the squares that all the girls have knitted and sew them into a blanket! Working together, the ten girls quickly make a large, beautiful, warm blanket that can keep a wounded soldier warm while he recovers in a hospital. Molly, Linda, and Susan laughingly tell the other girls how they tried to collect a hundred bottle tops but only got sixteen. However, the others girls like that idea too, and together come up with the remaining eighty-four.

The third-grade girls win the contest with the blanket and scrap metal, and even get a write-up in the town's paper. Molly is mentioned by name, as the blanket will be sent to the hospital where her father works.

Looking Back

In 1944, it was common for schools to have many volunteer opportunities to help the war effort. They ranged from scrap metal collection to being penpals with displaced children in England to rolling bandages to making clothes and blankets for the troops. Even students felt it was their patriotic duty to do whatever they could think of to help.


This book is dedicated to "all my teachers."

The first chapter is titled "Eight Times Seven," which is a multiplication problem that trips up Molly during a class competition. I used to have trouble remembering whether 8 x 7 was 54 or 56, until two years ago when my nanny charge pointed out that 56 = 7 x 8: five, six, seven, eight.

Alison's mom is pretty awesome in her scene. She finds the Molly, Susan, and Linda spying on the sock knitting party, and is all "Oh, Alison was worried you weren't going to come, but I told her you would never be so rude! And look, here you are, ready to join us! I'll go tell her you're here."

Once you know how to knit, basic socks aren't terribly complicated, although turning the heel can be a bit tricky the first few times. But I absolutely DETEST knitting them. I've made one pair (a gift for one of my midwives when I was pregnant with my older daughter), but aside from some tiny ones as Christmas decorations, I intend to never knit a sock ever again.

Hmm, maybe the reason Molly thinks sock knitting is so complicated is that she describes knitting them flat then seaming them. It would be tricky to get a seam straight. That's why sock knitting is best done "in the round," using either cable needles or three to five double-pointed needles to make the socks in tube shapes right from the start.

Molly's books have some really goofy illustrations in them. There's one of an anthropomorphic glass of tomato juice threatening to spill.


Andie said...

So happy you're on the Molly books! This was one of my faves. I read all your BSC recaps too :)

SJSiff said...

I'm glad you're enjoying them, Andie! I'll have another one up tomorrow.

Isabel Escalante said...

I love Molly books, too. This one was definitely on my favorites list.
I never learned how to knit socks, but I few years ago, I knitted quite a few scarves. :)

SJSiff said...

I tend to knit blankets myself. I have a couple scarf patterns that I really like, and just finished one a couple days ago.