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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Extra Yarn, written and illustrated by Mac Barnett. Harper, 2012. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"She made sweaters for everyone, except Mr. Crabtree, who never wore sweaters or even long pants, and who would stand in his shorts with snow up to his knees."

I have become such a fan of these talented and perceptive artists. Mac Barnett still has me guffawing along with everyone who gets a chance to listen to, or read, Guess Again? I have read OH, NO! again and again and pored over the illustrations with delight! With each new season of science fairs, I think it should be showcased as a story of projects gone wrong for the scientist, and right for the reader. Add to that the brilliant I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and you have the beginning of a pile of 'best books' to share for years to come!

Now, we can add this gentle, seemingly simple tale that blends the talents of both Mac and Jon. How lucky are we?

In the dreary town where Annabelle lives, there seems little to celebrate. Falling snow and sooty drabness are the order of the day. Annabelle makes a discovery that will soon change all that. In the small dark box she finds there are yarns of all colors. She sets about using the yarn to make a sweater for herself and then, her dog.

Lo and behold, the yarn box holds even more. She can make sweaters for her friends, family, neighbors, classmates and even her crotchety teacher. Not yet depleted, the box continues to supply the yarn she needs to clothe the birdhouses, buildings and various and sundry animals who live in her hometown.

As with many things that attract unsolicited attention, Annabelle is soon approached by a materialistic and self-centered archduke, whose greed outdoes his need. He offers Annabelle a boatload of money for the yarn box...she refuses, having no need for his riches. Not to be dissuaded from his demands, the archduke sends hired henchmen to do his dirty work and steal the box. They do!

I will leave you to discover what happens next. It is quite a comeuppance and fairly dances with magic!

Jon Klassen's illustrations have the same understated brilliance that he used in I Want My Hat Back, never distracting the reader from the story's main character and action. The colors used to produce the many sweaters are muted, and unobtrusive. That being said, listeners are blissfully aware of the power they have for telling the story visually and for the feelings evoked as the generous and determined young girl goes about her daily work.

Mr. Crabtree is not forgotten by Annabelle.

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