"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Extra Yarn

Extra Yarn was written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by the extremely talented, Jon Klassen. It is a Caldecott Honor Book. Published in 2012, Extra Yarn is a tale about a young girl named Annabelle who lives in a colorless town of black and white. One day she discovers a box with yarn of every color. She knits herself and her dog beautiful sweaters and amazingly still had extra yarn. As she walked through the town and went from place to place; people would make fun of her for being different with her colored sweater. But then she started to knit sweaters for many people and animals in the town and they loved it! Most miraculously though, the girl NEVER ran out of yarn! It was special, magical yarn. Before long, the quaint little town was extremely colorful and news spread fast about this yarn’s special powers. Then, an archduke arrived on his ship and tried to buy the yarn from Annabelle but she wouldn't have it! He offered her millions and she just said, “I won’t sell the yarn.” But that night the archduke hired three robbers to steal the box of yarn from Annabelle’s house. When the box made its way back to him, he opened it, and to his surprise there was no yarn! He cursed Annabelle’s family and said that she would never be happy again! The archduke threw the box overboard and it safely made its way back to Annabelle. On the last page, we see Annabelle sitting on a tree that is completely covered in yarn! Her box is next to her and we can only assume that although there was no yarn for the archduke; there will always be yarn for Annabelle. Her optimism and hope saved the day!

To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the ending with the archduke. I thought the story was great before he was introduced and that the ending could have been when we saw how colorful the town had become. I didn't feel like the problem with the archduke went well with the story at that point in the book. Maybe if it was a different type of character that was a bit more logical and not so fantasy-like. But I have a feeling that children LOVE the archduke part. I will read this book to my students this week and see what they think. Perhaps I just don’t have the imagination that I used to as a child!

The cover of the text is mostly white with the title spelled out in multicolored yarn. We see Annabelle leaning against the “T” with her multicolored sweater on and surrounded by animals in their sweaters. The backgrounds of the pages are purposefully very monochromatic to emphasize the colors of the yarn. The skin on all the people is extremely white and they all have dark black hair. The only pages with a dark background are the ones with the archduke; probably to emphasize that he is the villain of the story. Although I agree that the illustrations fit very well with the story, they are not my favorite illustrations. I think I still have a sour taste in my mouth from the archduke character being thrown into the story. I just wasn't impressed.
All in all, Extra Yarn is a sweet, creative story about imagination, hope, and optimism. The world can be whatever you want it to be if you are optimistic enough. I will update this post with my students' reactions to this story!

*UPDATE: I read this book to my second graders and they absolutely loved it! ESPECIALLY the ending with the arch duke! They mentioned that they actually wished he was in the story more than just the ending. I had a feeling they would really enjoy it. I think I need to remember there is a difference between reading children's literature as an adult and reading it as a child!


  1. I had seen this book recommended on Amazon, and it looked really good. I might have to go get it after reading your review. I can't wait to hear what your kids think of it!

  2. Great review! This book reminds me of urban knitting- finding random, mundane city objects playfully wrapped in colorful yarn. I like that it has a bit of magic in it! It also reminds me of the movie Pleasantville (with Tobey Maguire) where everything is black and white at the beginning and then it gradually becomes more colorful. Very interesting illustrations! Thanks for the review!