What I Did at Kirkus Last Week, a Follow-Up
(Part One); Or: In Praise of Strange, Shaggy Stories

h1 July 5th, 2012 by jules

“She made sweaters for all the dogs, and all the cats, and for other animals, too.
Soon, people thought, soon Annabelle will run out of yarn.”

Last Thursday at Kirkus, I chatted with the very funny writer and strongman-for-hire Mac Barnett about the fact that his early Spring picture book—Extra Yarn (Balzer + Bray), illustrated by Jon Klassen—up and got the 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in the Picture Book category. Here is that conversation, if you missed it and are so inclined to read it. (And I’ve been wanting to post about this book all year, having asked Mac and Jon about it back in January. Better late than never, huh?)

Know what, too? I asked Mac, as you can see over there at the Q & A, about the fact that his writing is always described as “quirky,” and he gave such a wonderful response, one I’ll always remember. If you love picture books as much as I do, you also may very well cheer this:

Last month on the radio, I heard a winemaker talking about how his business had changed, starting in the 1980s. Before that, apparently, vintners took pride in the idiosyncrasies of their individual processes and the quirks of their regions. You could take a sip and know that the grapes were grown in this particular terroir, say, and there was such wide and pronounced variety that you could tell the differences between two wines grown 30 miles from each other.

But then that changed. Winemakers started aiming for received notions of the perfect Bordeaux or ideal Cabernet, and things started tasting the same. And this man on the radio was sad, because something had been lost.

Now, during the Reagan years, I was too young to even taste the holy swill in the Communion cup, but I see a similar trend in picture books—and on roughly the same timeline. The same plots get trotted out. Great ideas are shaved and sanded down until they look a lot like a lot of other things on the bookshelf. I like strange stories, shaggy stories, stories with knobby bits and gristle and surprises. And so I’m glad that people think my stories are quirky. All my favorite books have quirks. Although I think it is almost always more interesting to examine why something is quirky than to simply say that it is.

Strange, shaggy stories. YES, indeed.

Here are some more illustrations from Extra Yarn (sans text). [Fun Fact, Which Jon Mentioned in a Previous Email to Me and Which I Hope He Doesn’t Mind Me Sharing Here: The yarn in the book was actually an old sweater Jon scanned in and then colored so that the stitching would be right.]

Enjoy. (Part Two tomorrow…)

“So she went home and knit herself a sweater.
And when Annabelle was done, she had some extra yarn.”

“So she knit a sweater for Mars, too. But there was still extra yarn.”

“So she knit sweaters for her mom and dad. And for Mr. Pendleton and Mrs. Pendleton. And for Dr. Palmer. And for little Louis.”
(Click to enlarge)

“…So Annabelle made sweaters for things that didn’t even wear sweaters.”
(Click to see entire spread from which this illustration comes)

“Things began to change in that little town.”
(Click to enlarge)

“‘Little girl,’ said the archduke, ‘I would like to buy that miraculous box of yarn. And I am willing to offer you one million dollars.’ ‘No, thank you,’ said Annabelle, who was knitting a sweater for a pickup truck. The archduke’s mustache twitched. …”
(Click to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

Illustrations from EXTRA YARN are copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen and used with permission of HarperCollins.

9 comments to “What I Did at Kirkus Last Week, a Follow-Up
(Part One); Or: In Praise of Strange, Shaggy Stories”

  1. Not just one of my favorite picture books of the year, one of my favorite books of all time!


  2. This book hits all the right notes (ya know like a fine wine), an instant classic.

  3. Quirky…yes indeed for the unique storyline and illustrations. Each artist pushing the limits into the unexpected. I love this book.

  4. Perfect art. Perfect story. What more can I say, I LOVE this book!!

  5. I’ve been seeing this book’s cover a lot, and I found it yesterday when I was scanning through all the section for new books in our children’s department at the library and found it and was so excited to have it in my hands! Read it today with my brother and LOVED it! I came up with a reading of this picture book which I think is sort of strange that I wrote about just now on my blog… if you have a chance I would love if you could check it out and tell me if you think it makes any sense at all 🙂 http://alice-peregrinations.blogspot.com/2012/07/picture-book-review-extra-yarn.html

  6. Instant classic! I saw the two of them at a signing, and the banter was out of control. Those two are SOMETHING ELSE.

  7. I love this book like the Golden Girls love cheesecake! The exquisite restraint in Jon Klassen’s artwork; Mac Barnett’s lively staccato prose… yummers

  8. Because of this blogpost I ordered the book. I’m so looking forward to it! Thank you for your wonderful blog.

  9. […] Image source for Extra Yarn illustrations […]

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