Title: Extra Yarn
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Age Group: 2-6
Synopsis: A little girl stumbles upon an unlikely treasure and uses it to make her town a more beautiful place.
The Low Down:
I love examples of strength that don’t follow the grain of what that term normally brings to mind. When I think of strength I immediately think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or a gorilla or some giant mechanical beast. It’s not so easy to look past what society considers strength to the quiet strength that can be found in so many smaller places and smaller people. This month KidLitPicks is focusing on Mighty Girls. Girls who are strong, smart, and brave. Annabelle from Extra Yarn struck me as such a character, even if in not such a conventional way. Written by the ever dynamic duo: Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, these two bring to life a girl who stands up for her beliefs, who doesn’t listen to naysayers, and who perseveres when the odds are stacked against her.
In a grey town, Annabelle and her dog happen upon a box of brightly colored yarn and Annabelle decides to knit herself a sweater and one for her dog with the leftover yarn. It doesn’t end there. Annabelle ends up knitting sweaters for the whole town. For people who tease her, for people who tell her to stop, for everyone. She doesn’t bulldoze people though. One person says, “No thanks. I don’t want a sweater.” So very considerately, she knits a hat instead. And eventually this little black and white town becomes filled with color. Throughout this, her yarn never runs out and becomes famous. A rich man comes and tries to buy the box of yarn from her but she politely refuses even ten million dollars. The rich man instead steals it but finds the box is empty. Enraged he throws it into the sea. But somehow it makes its way back to Annabelle, who lives very happily ever after.
Klassen, of course, brings this to life with his own brand of understated beauty. By creating a decidedly bleak looking town and turning it into a muted rainbow of knit color, he once again reveals not only his skill but humor and creativity. By snuggly clothing each object in the town (houses, trees, animals, trucks) in sweaters, he adds small laughs to the pages and delight that had Bug giggling for hours afterwords. The amount of history and feeling he conveys with his illustrations does truly bring each character to life. The rich man, seems rich in history as well as funds. His snooty castle tower and trailing scarf are just as full of expression as the very subtle changes in Annabelle’s emotions.
Annabelle is at the center of it all, making the pages turn with only her knitting needles. She has the strength of self to see when teasing is jealousy. She has the wisdom and perseverance to create solutions when others say her sweaters are causing problems. She has the ability to imagine the world as it should be and make it possible. Annabelle not only does these things but then quietly and stoically stands up to someone considered much more powerful than her. She is a Mighty Girl that gives hope to all the quiet girls out there. There are mighty actions that are loud and visual. But there are also small actions that people can take to help those around them. These actions are just as important and just as mighty. If you’re ever in doubt, all you need to look to is Annabelle. She sees a problem and steps up to fix it, with yarn.
- If your little reader is a bit older engage in some fabulous yarn craft afterwords.
- Take a moment to talk about the emotions behind the village residents’ reactions to the sweaters. It’s great practice for real life.
I need more!
Check out my review on Sam and Dave Dig a Hole for more on the amazing contributors to children’s literature.
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