Leave Me Alone!

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Leave Me Alone! Book Poster Image
Granny treks off to knit in peace in funny modern folktale.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to the storytelling style of classic folktales. For instance, "Once there was an old woman. She lived in a small village in a small house." Concept of seasons. "Samovar." Concept of wormhole. Introduction to yarn and knitting.

Positive Messages

If you have something you need to do, you can find the space and time to do it. You can stand up to those who stand in your way -- be they people, bears, or aliens. Even if people sometimes annoy you, or you want to get away from them, you can love them and want to do things for them. You can make handcrafted gifts for those you love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The old woman stands up to people, bears, goats, and aliens. She makes sure she has the time and space to accomplish what she wants. She's a determined and fearless adventurer. She knits beautiful sweaters for each of her 30 grandchildren.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2017 Caldecott Honor book Leave Me Alone!  by Vera Bosgol is a fun, kid-pleasing trek with a cranky, sweater-knitting grandma. What's an old woman to do when her hordes of wildly active grandkids won't let her knit? She shouts, "Leave me alone!" and heads out in search of peace and quiet. Author-illustrator Brosgol was born in Moscow, and the book has the feel of a Russian folktale. The old woman hails from a quaint village where neighbors tend their gardens and goats. But things take an unusual contemporary turn when she lands on the moon, then escapes through a wormhole to a void that's at last remote enough for her to knit folk-patterned sweaters for all those grandkids. There's loads of humor in the art and text, and the opportunity for kids to chime in with "Leave me alone!" make this a read-aloud pleasure.

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What's the story?

In LEAVE ME ALONE!, an old Russian woman lives in a small village in a small house overrun with very active grandkids. With winter coming, she knows she has "some very important knitting to do" but can't get started with all the kid chaos in the house. After straightening the house and enjoying a cup of tea from her samovar, she packs a sack and shouts, "Leave me alone!"" She heads up a mountain and tries to knit there but is interrupted by a bear family who wants to eat her and a cave full of mountain goats who want to eat her yarn. At the top of the mountain, she manages to climb onto the moon, but even there, she's bothered by little green moon-men. Unexpectedly, she escapes through a wormhole, where she at last finds the peace and quiet she needs to knit 30 little sweaters -- which she then brings back to her 30 grandkids.

Is it any good?

A classic-sounding folktale takes an unexpected and funny space-age turn in this story that sends a Russian granny on a journey to the moon and beyond. Author-illustrator Vera Brosgol's debut picture book is highly inventive. Readers will enjoy the pitch-perfect folktale start and howl at the humor. When the grandkids are "very curious about her knitting," one girl stuffs a ball of yarn in her little brother's mouth: "Could you make your brother eat it?" Other kids wonder, "Why did the ball get smaller and smaller as you chased it?"

Leave Me Alone! has a perfect balance of text and art. Mountain goats who are happy the old woman "brought snacks" are shown passed out in drunk-like stupors after gorging on yarn. And the little moon-men have scanners that say "beep boop" -- so fun to say! There's also storytelling know-how in the repeated chant. And though it looks a little odd to modern eyes to see all-white faces in such a huge mess of kids, it's a Russian village and family. When the old woman's "important knitting" turns out to be 30 sweaters for the very same grandkids who brought her to "the end of her rope," the touch of sweetness is just right.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the classic feel of Leave Me Alone!. When the story started, did you think it was going to be a traditional folktale? What parts of the story and art made you think that?

  • How much of the humor is in the art? Can you find jokes that are just in the art? What about jokes that are in both the text and the art?

  • Do you think the old woman actually loves her grandchildren? Why? Can you love someone and want to be away from them sometimes?

Book details

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