Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Guess Again!, Mustache), illustrated by Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back), is no ordinary yarn. Let me start by saying that you don’t have to be a knitter or have a sweater fetish to appreciate the many charms of this enchanting new picture book. One afternoon, in a town “where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys,” a young girl named Annabelle finds a mysterious black box “filled with yarn of every color.” What does she do? Go home and knit a sweater for herself, of course. When she’s done, Annabelle notices that she has leftover yarn—so she knits one for her dog. There’s still extra yarn, so she knits a cheery, colorful sweater for a neighborhood boy and his tough-looking pooch; all the kids in her class plus the annoyed teacher; her parents; and all the townspeople, including Mr. Crabtree, who believes less is more when it comes to clothes (for him, she knits a hat). There is still more yarn, so Annabelle turns her attention to the animals and things around her. Soon the whole town is literally covered with multi-colored yarn. When word spreads of the girl and her marvelous box of never-ending yarn, an arrogant, greedy archduke demands to buy the box and then resorts to stealing it after Annabelle turns him down. All ends well, however, when the box refuses to work its magic for the wicked duke and finds a way to reunite with Annabelle.
As with all successful picture books, the text and art are perfectly matched. Klassen’s witty illustrations depict a dreary environment (grays and browns against a white background) that is gradually transformed stitch by stitch (you can almost feel the texture of the yarn pattern). I especially love the bemused expressions on the faces of the people and animals that have been “sweater-fied.” Readers of all ages will find themselves smiling at the images of sweater-wearing houses, mailboxes and even a pickup truck. Like a cozy sweater on a cold day, this artful story about a child whose creativity and generosity changes the world around her will leave you with a warm, happy feeling!
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Can you suggest other picture books about children who change the world with their creativity and ingenuity?