• It’s the birth date of Walter Crane (1845-1915), Household Stories From the Collection of the Brothers Grimm, The Baby’s Own Aesop.
  • Also born on this day was sharpshooter Annie Oakley (1860-1926). Read Bull’s- Eye: A Photobiography of Annie Oakley by Sue Macy, Annie Oakley by Charles Wills, and Annie Oakley Saves the Day by Anna DiVito.
  • On this day in 2008, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps sets the Olympic record for the most gold medals (eight in Beijing and six in Athens) won by an individual in Olympic history. Read Stotan! and Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, both by Chris Crutcher.

During August many individuals visit one of the hundreds of arts and crafts fairs held around the country. Whether you are going to the Festival of the Hills in St. Louis or looking forward to the Minnesota State Fair for its crafts exhibits, you should pick up one of the best celebrations of the art of crafting: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, with illustrations by Jon Klassen.

The book begins cleverly on the title page, where a long strand of yarn loops around the bottom, circles the copyright notice, and ends on the dedication page in a box, where a dog watches it intently. Then the story begins. Annabelle, on a cold day in a cold town, finds a box “filled with yarn of every color.” She begins to knit—sweaters for herself and Mars, the dog. As she does, the dark, cold landscape gets transformed with a bit of color. Seeing that her neighbor is jealous, she knits something for him and his dog. Magically, there appears to be more yarn.

Soon classmates, her parents, and even her doctor receive one of Annabelle’s creations. And still Annabelle has extra yarn! Then the dogs, cats, and animals get decked out. In one particularly pleasing spread, Jon Klassen creates clothing for the creatures he introduced us to in I Want My Hat Back. Annabelle decorates the town, changing it from cold to colorful. An evil archduke tries to buy and then steal the box, but Annabelle is more than a match in her own guile. In the end, she sits happily, still creating knitted masterpieces.

Annabelle reminds me of my Aunt Doris, who has decorated people, houses, and even her own small town with the magnificent pieces that emerge from her needles. Our heroine stands as a testament to the creative spirit—the person who truly never does run out of the time or materials to change the world around them. Jon Klassen, himself full of creative spirit, brilliantly captures the transformation of the town, from drab to splendid, because of Annabelle’s spirit. From the cover to final spread, Jon Klassen provides one delightful page after another. His ability to render complex ideas moves the story along and simultaneously causes readers to linger and savor the details.

Extra Yarn won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for picture books and a Caldecott Honor. It is perfect for any “crafty” youngsters you know—or simply for anyone who enjoys a picture book executed with élan. I hope you get to enjoy some arts and crafts shows in your area—Extra Yarn will make you want to attend.

Here’s a page from Extra Yarn:



Originally posted August 13, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Art, Clothing, Imagination
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Extra Yarn


  1. Chris says:

    I have this book in my library bag- I grabbed it on a whim. Now I’m extra excited to read it!

  2. karen kosko says:

    Clever book with many uses.

  3. Chelsea DeTorres says:

    Although I am not a crafter, Annabelle’s generosity makes me want to start. A picture book that — like the box of yarn — has a magic that doesn’t run out.

Leave a Comment

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .

The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .

And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large.