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Review: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn
By Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)

ISBN: 9780061953385
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Best New Book*

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

I’ve never knitted anything in my life (or is it just “knit”?). Not a thing. The extent of my self-crafted wardrobe is limited to ironing letters on a t-shirt, which I promptly threw on stage at a concert (don’t worry, I had another shirt underneath). But I would imagine there’s a lot of satisfaction in creating an item of clothing out of nothing and a ball of yarn. Of fabricating something, however minor. This concept of making an impact on the world, one small piece at a time is at the core of Extra Yarn. Full of beauty and humor, it’s a book that will likely stick with you after the story is done.

When Annabelle finds a box filled with multicolored yarn, she does what you might expect – she knits a sweater. But there is extra yarn, so she knits sweaters for others – classmates and teachers and even animals. Still: more yarn. She begins to cover her entire cold, drab town in rainbow knitwear – including buildings and trees. The change is dramatic. Before long, an archduke arrives and offers Annabelle riches in exchange for the box. When she refuses, the archduke has it stolen. But it is for naught – he finds the box empty and angrily tosses it in the sea, where it eventually returns to Annabelle.

The conclusion will have kids asking the question – why was the box empty for the archduke? Camp #1 will say “well, the yarn just happened to run out”, while Camp #2 will likely infer that the box was empty because it needs Annabelle for the magic to happen. Count me a member of the latter group.

Some subtle humor comes into play, particularly when Annabelle begins knitting for the benefit of inanimate objects, covering mailboxes, houses, and pickup trucks in sweaters. This sort of absurdity fits with Barnett and Klassen’s previous work.

The ink, gouache, and digital illustrations (which bring to mind Alice and Martin Provensen’s work in Caldecott-winner A Glorious Flight) are understated and gorgeous. Klassen’s previous book I Want My Hat Back garnered wide acclaim with stark illustrations (and a wicked ending). Here the starkness is contrasted by the technicolor yarn. I understand Klassen created the distinctive sweater texture by scanning an actual sweater and digitally tweaking it – an inventive, and visually rewarding touch.

This isn’t a book solely for fans of the off-beat – it’s a story everyone can savor.

Review copy purchased.

Also reviewed by Pink Me, One Sheepish Girl, Simple Kids.


About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Oh my gosh, I love that cover…and the insides, too. Thanks for sharing this one!

  2. I read this at storytime last week — cold; I’d picked it up because the cover is so appealing — and the kids adored it. I read it twice, they loved it so much.

    I agree: it’s a story anyone can savor.

  3. Looks like a great book! Thank you for sharing!

  4. I am still waitin for mine to be delivered, the worst part of livin in Japan. I thought the Kindle had cured me of this anticipation.
    This reminds me of the fairy tale of One Eye Two Eyes and Three Eyes that I read recently. Something about a golden tree that would only let the two-eyed bullied sister pick its golden fruit.

  5. Why won’t my iPhone let me type g’s? Sorry!

  6. I was “googling” my yarn bombs and came across your picture of my tree on Front Street and it made me smile :-) For my birthday this year my friend gave me Extra Yarn as a gift :-) I spent most of the summer covering Front Street so seeing this review and my picture made me feel a bit like Annabelle must feel in the book :-) Awesome !

    • Whoa – nice to hear from you, Jane! Amazing that you found the photo. And that’s cool to hear that you’ve read the picture book I was discussing in the post. Keep up the good work!