Mac Barnett's Extra Yarn
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Book review by Steve Barancik
A yarn about yarn
There's a special kind of children's book I love that I think I'll call, "It should be, it should be, it SHOULD be that way" books. (Which is exactly what Dr. Seuss wrote at the end of Horton Hatches the Egg, when the selfish mother bird's egg he's been nurturing hatches into a bird with elephant features.
"It should be" books give themselves permission to insert a little bit of magic, enough to result in an ending that couldn't happen in the real world...but should.
In Extra Yarn, Annabelle is a little girl living in a dirty, cold, black & white world. Then one day, she finds a box of yarn - yarn of every color!
She knits herself a sweater, but she's left with - you guessed it! - extra yarn. So she knits a sweater for her dog...her nasty neighbor...her nasty neighbor's dog.
Still more yarn.
Her colorful sweater is causing a distraction at her two-toned school. Rather than take it off, to even her skeptical teacher's amazement, she manages to conjure enough yarn to knit sweaters for everyone - including that teacher.
Pretty soon every person in town has an Annabelle-made sweater, and yet there's still more yarn to go around.
So Annabelle made sweaters for things that didn't even wear sweaters.
So it's a magical box of yarn, kind of puts the Hanukah oil to shame. And guess what? There's a not-so-magical villain - fond of clothes - who wants it. He's an Archduke (wears an "A" on his plumed hat), who arrives on a boat and offers Annabelle major riches ($10 million!) in return for the box.
And she thinks nothing of turning him down.
(Full disclosure: I would have sold the box.)
Well, what the Archduke wants, the Archduke gets. He hires three robbers (he has money, remember?) and they steal the box. Then "Archie" sails with it, across the sea, back to his castle.
And here's what makes this an "It should be, it should be, it SHOULD be that way" book...
Back home, Archie lifts the lid and finds...no yarn. So he tosses the box into the sea, where the currents catch it, and bring it back to Annabelle, who, with her sweatered dog, is waiting for it.
Your lost and found experience may differ.
It's a sweet story from author Mac Barnett, charmingly illustrated by Jon Klassen, who received a Caldecott Honor for the effort (in the same year that he won the Caldecott Medal itself for This Is Not My Hat).
Sure, not a whole lot of substance or meaning, but if you enjoy knitting a coccoon of happy endings around your little ones for a small while (until the world begins showing its real colors), then you could hardly do better than Extra Yarn.
More Caldecott reviews.
Read more of Steve's book reviews.
Also from Barnett and Klassen: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.