October 9, 2014

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:11 am by suebe2

Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzer + Bray

Annabelle is playing outside in the cold and the snow in her ho-hum black-and-white town.  She finds a box of yarn.

First Annabelle knits herself a sweater, bringing a little color into her world.  She has plenty of yarn left and knits a sweater for her dog, Nate and his crabby dog, her teacher and her classmates.  With each addition, the world is a little brighter.

As Annabelle attracts the attention of those around her, some disapprove claiming that she is distracting.  Some are envious and want what she has.  When she refuses to sell her seemingly endless box of yarn, the box is stolen.  Upon closer inspection, the box is empty until Annabelle gets it back and resumes her knitting to warm and brighten the world.

Klassen’s illustrations are as simple and straightforward as Barnett’s text.  Note:  Neither one is truly simple or straightforward although this is how they appear after a quick read.

Is this a story about knitting?  Or is it a tale of generosity, creativity or hope?  It is all of these and so much more.

Klassen’s illustrations combine ink and gouache in a world that starts out in flat back and white before adding color to the stark reality that Annabelle decides she can and will change.  Share this magical, elegant story with young readers (1st grade through 3rd grade) and spur discussions about the power of one creative individual to change their world, to brighten it and make it better.

This is significantly more fanciful than Ben Franlin’s Big Splash but the idea that you can do many things with a can-do attitude is much the same.

–SueBE

 

January 27, 2014

The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:07 am by suebe2

The Dark
by Lemony Snicket
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Little Brown and Company

Lazlo was afraid of the Dark.  If you live in certain places this might not matter but Lazlo lived in a big house with stair cases, shower curtains and corners.  At night, the Dark crept through the house, under the creaky roof, but in the day time it retreated to the basement.

Lazlo tried to keep the Dark happy, more or less, by visiting it every morning.  He’d open the basement door, greet the dark and then go on about his day.  Lazlo thought that if he visited the Dark in its room, it would leave him alone in his.

Then one night the bulb in his nightlight burned out and the Dark called him to follow.  Lazlo wasn’t sure why he should follow or where he was going but he clicked on his flashlight and followed.

I’m not going to spoil the ending the suffice it to say that nothing terrifying happens and by the last page, actually several pages before this, Lazlo is no longer afraid of the dark.

I love that this deals with such a common fear without ever condescending to the reader.  There’s no “dont’ be afraid” or “it’s silly to be afraid.”  Lazlo is afraid.  Period.  That’s what matters.  I also love that Lazlo works through it himself — that means with no adult interference or involvement by older siblings.  In fact, there are only two characters in the entire book — Lazlo and the Dark.

Jon Klassen’s illustrations are a perfect compliment to this text with broad swaths of darkness dominating some pages and lurking in the corners of others.  There is also light, because you really can’t appreciate darkness without at least a little light, but the colors are muted and sunset rich.  He also provides visual cues to let the reader see for themselves that Lazlo is no longer afraid; early in the story, Lazlo moves about in the evening with a flashlight.  Late in the story, the flashlight is no longer needed.

Pick up this picture book today and share it with the young reader in your life.  Even if they aren’t afraid of the dark, they will appreciate Lazlo’s ability to solve his own problems.

–SueBE

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