I know it’s already more than half-way into January but, hey, Happy New Year to you!
Every new year, I pick a picture book that reflects my new year resolution and put it on the top of my bookshelves to remind myself throughout the year. For this first Book of the Month post of the year, I’m sharing what I picked for this year – Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnette and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Walker Books 2013).
This is a story about a girl called Annabelle, who discovers a box of brightly coloured yarn on a cold, dark day in a dull, grey town. So she knits herself a jumper, and to her surprise, she still has some extra yarn left. So she knits her dog a jumper too, and she still has extra yarn left. So she knits everyone in the town jumpers despite they at first mock her or don’t believe her that she can. (I love the little cameo appearance of the bear from my favourite Jon Klassen’s book This Is Not My Hat.)
Annabelle knits and knits and, soon, she turns the entire town nice and cosy and colourful, and she still has some extra yarn left. News of this remarkable girl and the magical yarn spreads far and wide. It doesn’t take long for the greedy Archduke to set his eyes upon Annabelle’s magical box of yarn. He offers to buy it off from her to keep it all to himself. But Annabelle simply says ‘No thanks’. So Archduke plots to steal it from her but just to find you have to have a little bit of kindness inside your heart for the magic to work…
I don’t think the Kate Greenaway-winning illustrator Jon Klassen needs a long introduction. His brilliant work includes This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick 2011) , The Dark (Orchard Books 2014), and The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse (Walker Books 2017) to name a few. His artwork is usually beautifully dark, bleak, low-key, but he has brought some heart-warming rainbow colours to this book for the magical yarn and it works brilliantly against the bleak background. Genius.
And I like the gentle and fairy-tale like tone of Barnett’s writing here. Together Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett make a brilliant team (they are the award-winning team behind Sam and Dave Dig a Hole). This book is full of warmth and cosiness – a perfect story for a cold, winter day.
So what does this book have to do with my new year’s resolution? Let me explain. Typical new year resolutions are usually about transforming and re-inventing oneself (‘learn new language’, ‘find a new job’, ‘quite smoking’, ‘lose weight’ etc). Basically they are based on desire for what you don’t have. But does it help you achieve the ultimate life goal to be happy?
Last year I had a great year in terms of my creative career, but I found myself constantly worrying about me being behind my imaginary ‘adulting’ schedule. Every time I heard someone I know had bought a house or got engaged etc, it made me feel down. That’s just sad. My least proud moment was when my BFF told me that she was pregnant. I was of course happy for her, but the initial emotion I felt was jealousy not joy for my friend, and I hated myself for it.
Our capitalist society aspires us to want more of ‘what we should want’ and it seems I’m not alone in this pitfall… However, there has been a noticeable change of tone at least in the world of self-help in recent years to a spirit of accepting yourself as you are, moving away from a culture of “more please” to one of “just enough” (take the hygge and lagom boom for example). I do still think healthy amount of aspiration and ambition is good. But I believe appreciating what you already have is a key to happiness. Then I think if I can appreciate what I have, that’s great, and if I can share it, that’s even greater! That’s why this book is my new year’s resolution 🙂
Thank you for visiting my website and reading my posts. I’ll continue to try to share my love for picture books and my journey as a picture book maker as much as possible this year.