Book Reviews

So many books. So little time.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Once upon a time, begin all fairy tales. Mac Barnett, who writes in all genres, in Extra Yarn goes back to the much beloved fairy tale. A tale that ends happily ever after, with adventure and magic thrown in for good measure.

Annabelle lives in a "cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys." The bare trees spread their black branches, soot particles linger in the air. Black and white and brown—how well the illustrations match the words. Team Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen achieve what John Scieszka talks about: "the subtle weave of words and pictures that allows both to tell a seamless tale."

Turn the page and viola: glowing color. How did that happen? Annabelle found a box of yarn and knit herself a sweater. When she was done knitting she saw there was some extra yarn, so she knit a sweater for Mars the dog. Done? No. This is where magic comes in. She looks in the box and there is extra yarn still. Even after knitting two sweaters there is yarn in the box.

Oh the pacing of the story: so true to life. Some color comes to the cold little town, but we are reminded that darkness still prevails. Nate scoffs at Annabelle's sweater. The spread is dark again, except for the spot of color provided by the two sweaters. "You're just jealous," says Annabelle, and she is right. She knits him a gift of a sweater—another patch of color.

And so the story goes. The yarn is never-ending. A reaching-out, a gift, another block of black. Mr. Norman the teacher finds Annabelle's sweater a distraction; she knits sweaters for everyone, including Mr. Norman, so they wouldn't be distracted. Slowly, slowly, the town gains color. The wonderful two-page spreads of colored sweaters. Pay attention to the details. The sweaters are not plain colors but actually depict the stitches. Even if there were no words we would know these are sweaters.

And the finer detail: notice the yarn going from one person to the next to the following. Everyone is connected. The people in the town that was cold and dark are now connected to each other through one act of generosity. The magic of the extra yarn is not just limited to the unlimited supply of yarn.

People, pets and other animals, then houses and even vehicles are gifted the color of sweaters. Again, look at the pictures-the shapes are defined by the knitting stitches. But greed still lingers in the world. "One day an archduke, who was very fond of clothes, sailed across the sea and demanded to see Annabelle." He wanted the box, and was willing to buy it for a huge sum of money. But money cannot buy everything, and the duke would stop at nothing to get the magic box. The pictures turn dark again. Robbery, anger, all make their appearance.

Love provides its own protection. Will color return to the "cold little town" and people live happily ever after? You'll have to read the book to find out, and a magical read it is.

Title: Extra Yarn

Author: Mac Barnett

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Publisher: Blazer+Bray

Hardback: 36 pages

ISBN: 978-0-06-195338-5