My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts by T. Kove
Kove, Torill. My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts. Firefly Books, 2017.
My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts is based on Torill Kove’s Academy Award nominated short film of the same title. The book is Kove’s retelling of one of her grandmother’s stories. This book is a fictional story set in a historical period.
It is about Norway’s first king in hundreds of years. Following the introduction of the King, it becomes immediately clear that this is a fictional story. The story explains that the new King’s public reputation was harmed by his inability to iron his own clothing. In reality, the King of Norway would have likely had staff to do this. Fortunately, after his first disastrous public appearance in wrinkled clothes, he found a store that was willing to do his family’s ironing. Kove’s grandmother worked at the store and soon realized that the clothes she was ironing belonged to the King. She proudly told everyone that she ironed the king’s clothes, up until the King was forced to flee Oslo during the Second World War. When the Germans invaded, Kove’s grandmother was tasked with cleaning and pressing their uniforms. She decided to join the Norwegian Resistance by sabotaging their uniforms. All of Norway’s shirt pressers joined the movement and in 1945, when the Germans left, they had to do so without clothes.
The illustrations in this book are simple line work filled in with solid colours. They are drawn in a comical cartoonish manner and all were pulled from the original short animated film. Pre-war, the images are dominated with brighter colours and they fill the entire page. During the war, the images are smaller, only occupying parts of the pages, with a white background dominating. The illustrations were all pulled from the original short film, where the images always filled the screen, which makes this change to the small images from full-page illustrations seem like it serves no clear purpose.
While this story provides a historical setting, and might encourage an interest in history, it may cause confusion in children because it is presented as historical while in reality it is overwhelmingly fictitious. It also makes use of the term “gypsy” which may have been appropriate in the historical period presented in the story, but is now considered a derogatory term (the preferred term is “Roma” or “Romani”) and therefore I would not recommend it for school libraries. That said, it is a quirky and fun story for elementary aged children that communicates a message of strength in adversity. As a result, I would recommend it for public libraries.
Editor’s note: One of three new titles in the Firefly Books-National Film Board of Canada partnership.
Recommended: 3 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Laura Hamonic
Laura Hamonic is an Academic Library Resident at the University of Alberta’s Science and Technology Library. She has a passion for all things crafty and spends her days cross stitching, crocheting, and costume making.
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