Genre: Picture Book
Author(s): Mac Barnett
Illustrator(s): Jon Klassen
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: 01/17/2012
Reading Level: 4-8
Read Aloud: 4
Read Alone: 6
Other Choices: Z Is for Moose, The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, If You Give a Dog a Donut
Synopsis: Fanciful story of generosity has a classic folk-tale feel.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that 2013 Caldecott Honor Book Extra Yarn is a charming story of generosity triumphing over greed that has a modern look but reads like a classic folk tale. Its protagonist is a low-key little girl who quietly transforms her community from a cold winter palette of black and white to a warm landscape of colorful cross-stitching after a magical box that never runs out of yarn lets her knits sweaters for humans, animals, buildings, cars, tricks, and trees alike. She even defeats a greedy royal, who sails from abroad and steals her magic box. Extra Yarn is a delightful read-aloud or read-alone with a gentle message about giving rather than taking.
- In what ways does this story remind you of a folk tale? Can you think of some other folk tales that have important messages?
- How does the art help tell the story?
- The illustrator sneaks the bear character from his book I Want My Hat Back into the picture on one page. Do you think that's OK?
What's the story?
Annabelle lives in a snowy town or village where everything looks black and white, but when she finds a box filed with yarn of every color, she knits herself a colorful sweater. When she sees she has some EXTRA YARN, she knits one for her dog, then for fellow villagers and their pets, classmates, her parents and teacher, houses, buildings, cars and trees, even the bear from illustrator Jon Klassen's previous book I Want My Hat Back. The magical box just keeps yielding extra yarn. Then "an archduke, who was very fond of clothes" lands his ship on the village shore, seeking to buy the box from Annabelle. He offers $2 million, but she won't sell. He steals it and returns home, but the box remains empty for him. He throws it back in the sea, and it floats back to Annabelle, who returns to making sweaters for everyone and everything in her community.
Is it any good?
Extra Yarn is a fresh story of generosity trumphing over greed that has the feel of a classic folk tale, yet Jon Klassen's stylized, subtly comic illustrations seem totally modern. The action unfolds in a low-key but captivating way, then takes an even more folk-tale-like turn with the sudden arrival of the archduke on a sailing ship. The struggle over the yarn box and the mystery of its magic elevate the story to the realm of fable.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Without ever being preachy, the subtle message is clear: Those who are generous and open-hearted are rewarded. Those who are selfish and greedy lose in the end.
Educational Value: Shows what knitting looks like and how sweaters come from it.
Role Models: Annabelle is giving and kind, and she selflessly makes cozy sweaters for others just because she can. She's thoughtful and polite, even to the archduke, who tries to buy her off and resorts to stealing from her.
What to watch out for
Violence & scariness: The archduke puts a curse on Annabelle that she'll never be happy again, but she is. His curse has no power over her.
Language: Not an issue