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Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Book Name: Extra Yarn
Author: Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Publisher(s): Balzer + Bray (US) HarperCollins Childrens Book Group (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Auidobook
Genre(s): Children's Picture Book
Release Date: January 17, 2012 (US) March 5, 2012 (UK)

Extra Yarn (cover)Before I get started, this isn’t the sort of review that folks are used to here, given that the book in question is meant for little kids. However it should be noted that little kids find can find the fantastical in everything and books geared towards them tend to reflect that. There’s less concern with genre norms when your audience has no idea what the word genre means.

Anyway, Extra Yarn is about a little girl named Annabelle who finds a box that contains a polychromatic ball of yarn that never ends and what happens when someone takes it away from her.

It’s very cute. It’s also very accurate regarding how knitters deal with their ever expanding stashes. There’s also a small theme of having an endless gift means that you have to continuously keep giving it away in order to keep it. I liked how it expanded Annabelle’s skills through constant practice and how she took different people into account when making something for them. I also liked how she recognized that an endless ball of yarn is especially useful in areas where it snows.

Extra Yarn (art 1)

Since this is a picture book, I would be remiss if I did not make some mention of the art. Indeed, much of the story will be most legible to early readers with the pictorial storytelling. It’s mostly done in what I would call “ink and water color” monochrome style, without a lot of gradients and lots of sharp contrasts, lending itself to a stark winter look. Texture is denoted with mostly straight vertical or horizontal lines… with the exception of everything that Annabelle knits up. Those are the standard chevrons of stockinette stitches in many different colors blending from one to the other.

Extra Yarn (art 3)

My only critique is that all the monochrome and the art style doesn’t allow for a lot of variation among the characters aside from hairstyle and clothing, which doesn’t make for good visual character design. I suppose such lack of distinction between characters could help with letting the reader see that Annabelle isn’t really any different from anyone else, but I would rather seeing more color gradients among the characters than some subtle means of letting me know about how unexceptional the main character is aside from her magic box of yarn.

Extra Yarn (art 2)

Overall I liked the story and Annabelle, but felt that the art needed some depth to it. I have a feeling that as I trawl through more generbooks geared at children, I may start to resemble a broken record that says, “needs more color, needs more depth” at regular intervals. Regardless I would recommend the book, with the caveat that if you are like me and are bothered by too much stark monochrome, a set of colored pencils may be in order to fix things.


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