Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at ‘Extra Yarn’

Extra YarnPerfect Picture Book Friday looks at the Caldecott Honor book, Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. And, as a fun addition, I have included a link at the end of this post to help you learn to knit as well as a link that teaches you to make a fun DIY yarn bowl.

When I was twelve, my mother decided I was old enough to learn how to knit. After receiving a marvelous wardrobe of patterned ski sweaters, pants, and jackets for my Barbie dolls over the years, I was eager to learn at my mother’s side. I watched as she quickly cast on. Her fingers did what I fondly refer to in knitting as ‘the dance’. The yarn moved slowly, smoothly, and steadily over her fingers as the piece grew longer and longer. When it was my turn, I took the knitting needles in hand and created something quite extraordinary. I made a creation that fell somewhere between a cobweb and a hairball. Mom gave up and I returned to sewing, a skill I had far greater success with.

As the years passed, and I grew up and married, I came by a yarn shop with a poster in the window, advertising their Saturday Afternoon Knitting Class. I decided to give knitting another chance. Since the teacher would be paid to teach me, maybe she’d have more patience…

The process was different from my mother’s. I learned there are many ways to knit, and the method taught in this class made sense to me. Before long, I had knit scarves for the family, knit and felted purses and house slippers and stuffed animals. My husband, who often sat beside me, watching as I knit, surprised me one day.

“I’ve been watching you,” he said. “And I think I know how to knit.”

“Sweetheart,” I said, “don’t get discouraged if your first attempts look like a cross between a cobweb and a hairball.” I gave him yarn and a set of knitting needles. Sure enough, he cast on like a pro. Before the week was out, my darling husband had knit himself a beautiful scarf. Then he went on the learn how to make those challenging cable knits and tackled a sweater!

All this talk of knitting leads me to the lovely picture book I’d like to share with you this Friday.

Title – Extra Yarn

Written by- Mac Barnett

*Illustrated by- Jon Klassen

*Published by- Balzer + Bray,  2012

*Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

*Topics/theme – Sharing and friendship

*Opening – On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.

Summary  – With a supply of yarn that never runs out, Annabelle knits for everyone and everything in town until an evil archduke decides he wants the yarn for himself.

Synopsis from Amazon – Extra Yarn, a Caldecott Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner, and a New York Times bestseller. It is the story of how a young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community.

With spare, gently humorous illustrations and a palette that moves from black-and-white to a range of color, this modern fairy tale has the feel of a new classic.

Why do I like this book? Annabelle finds a box filled with yarn and sets out to knit herself a sweater, and because she has yarn left… she knits a sweater for her dog, too. But when people see her creations, they laugh and tease. Instead of feeling discouraged, Annabelle performs a most wonderful and unexpected act of kindness… She knits sweaters for those people, too. And…because she still has more yarn left…Anabelle warms her town in cozy sweaters–literally. I won’t spoil the ending, but let me say that Annabelle loves her yarn and all she can do with it sooo much that she wouldn’t part with it for two million dollars. That’s love!

Author – Visit Mac Barnett’s web page here.

Illustrator – Visit Jon Klassen’s here.

Learn how to knit here.

Now for a fun DIY project you can do with children. Make a fun, usable yarn bowl with children. Instructions here

To find other perfect picture books please visit Susanna Hills blog.

If, after reading this book, you are wondering what else Annabelle could have made with her yarn, as children for their thoughts. Their answers are guaranteed to surprise and delight you.

“Hiccup For Me.” The inspiration behind a story.

 

Most of the children’s stories I write, although fiction, come from a childhood memory or develop from some random remark my daughter makes. However, one of my favorite stories came about when our dog got a near-clinical case of hiccups.

drawn by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

drawn by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

Hiccups…. I pondered over a cup of minty tea. A dog with hiccups! That could be embarrassing. Hmmm… Do I know what it’s like to get the hiccups at an inopportune time? YES! My mind zipped back to my 6th grade history class. 6th grade—an awkward enough time in a kid’s life, but paired with Mr. McNab, my history teacher, 6th grade was intolerable. You see, Mr. McNab LOVED when a student in his class hiccupped.

He’d be droning on and on about the details of the Boston Tea Party when from some remote corner of the universe that was our classroom…

HICCUP!

Pausing his lecture to place his piece of chalk on the wood ledge, Mr. McNab rotated like a lighthouse beacon and faced his students. His eyes deliberately panned the rows, searching and waiting for the perpetrator to reveal him or herself. Ears cocked and alert, he waited.

HICCUP!

With the keen moves of a hawk, Mr. McNab sought out his prey.  Swooping in on his helpless victim, his large hands securely gripped the sides of the defenseless kid’s desk. Lowering his head to achieve direct eye contact, he demanded, “Hiccup for me.” Keeping his eyes locked on the poor kid’s quivering face, he waited for another hiccup.

drawn by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

drawn by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

“Come on…hiccup for me.”

Damn if that didn’t work every time! Pure humiliation is an awesome cure for hiccups. When the kid (whose name I’ll not reveal…) couldn’t hiccup, Mr. McNab resumed class with a smirk on his face as if he knew he’d won.

So, having that personal memory to fall back on, (woops…did I say personal?)  I had what I needed to write a fictional story about a dog who got the hiccups. Sink the hairy fellow in a totally embarrassing situation, and voila! I am sooooo ready to write.

Sometimes the most embarrassing moments in our childhood make for the funniest stories.

More of the stories that inspire my stories to come!

To Quote Hemingway – Wednesday Prompts and Inpsirations

chalkboard-3-A “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest Hemingway

 

Bleed.

I asked myself what it means to bleed when writing.

I think another word, equally interchangeable with bleed, is purge. For me this means to empty myself until at the end of my writing day, I am exhausted.

Not unlike some other writers, I often type with my eyes closed to block out the visuals which ground me to the present. Eyes closed, I can watch my characters act on my mind’s stage, see their gestures, envision their movements, hear their dialog with greater clarity, and enter their thoughts.

Following is a partial list of what it means to bleed when writing.

YOU MUST

believe in what you are writing.

feel joy and excitement from what you are writing.

reveal your character’s fears and desires.

connect your reader to your characters by revealing their strengths and weaknesses and motives.

lead your reader by the hand and show them what is crucial and why it is crucial in each scene.

take your reader deep into the mind of your protagonist.

imagine yourself in the shoes of each of your characters, and write with their unique personalities in mind.

involve the five senses in your writing especially smell, a powerful, underused memory inducer.

not only describe the actions of your characters, but give reasons (motives) for their actions as well as their thoughts over the outcomes.

know the back story of your characters, not to bring to light necessarily, but to keep in mind so your characters feel real.

crush your protagonists hopes.

Place speed bumps in your protagonist’s path.

keep your protagonist from achieving their goal until the very end.

 

Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want To Play A Game? – Wednesday Prompts and Inspiration

chalkboard-3-AAs I move forward in writing my middle grade novel, I continue to define my cast of characters. (remember my 75 point character development questionnaire?) Part of understanding my characters so they feel like real people involves creating a list of defining items for each. My main character is a fourth grade ‘girly’ girl with a strong dislike for camping (one guess what her class is doing on the weekend).

As a writing warm-up for this task, I wrote the names of some people I know along the top of a sheet of paper. Beneath each name, I listed defining things/items.

If you try this exercise, you can test your lists for accuracy. Without revealing the names, see if others, who know the people, can figure out who each list belongs to.

WANT TO PLAY A GAME? This exercise can also be turned into a fun family and friends game: choose four or more people everyone in the room has in common. Then ask everyone to list 5 or more things that come to mind when they think of each listed person. When you’ve all completed this, pass the nameless lists around the room to see who can match  the most names to the right lists.

What you’ll learn is more than you expect…

Beyond your list of items that shows your relationship to each person, you will see how others perceive these people, too. In writing, it is important to remember that, like in the real world, the relationship Anne has to her best friend, Linda, is different from the relationship Anne’s mother has with Linda. If Anne and her mother both made lists to define Linda, you would see two different lists. If Anne and her mother interact with Linda in your story, you’ll want to take the time to make both lists.

Whether you are making these lists as a writing exercise or as a game, you could include other items…

Habits: clicking nails, twisting a strand of hair, jingling coins in their pocket.

Hobbies: exercise, stamp collecting, reading, swimming, golf, gardening, etc…

Expressions: Whatever, gotcha, you know it, etc…

Positive personality traits: uncomplaining, willing to lend a hand when someone needs help, volunteers, kind to everyone, sets goals and achieves goals, organized, …

Negative personality traits: Complains often, no situation is ideal, finds flaws in everyone and everything, nags, lazy, untidy, undisciplined…

Defining Items individual would use at home, always or often take with on a car ride, always keep in their pocket, purse, or wallet: small notebook, pen, photo of someone, goals list, particular snack, magnifier, etc…

 

A FICTITIOUS EXAMPLE:

George – microscope, reading glasses, science magazines, strong coffee, workaholic, generous.

Megan – sketch pad, pouch of colored pencils, mini trampoline, bike, hair accessories, doesn’t put things away, artistic, creative.

Liza – exercise bike, workout clothes, cup of tea, Kindle, stretchy headband, spearmint gum, organized work space, often too honest with comments.                                    

After I filled in the list of items for some of the people I know, I made a column for myself. Why? Because as writers, we often look to ourselves when creating our characters.

Leslie (me)Stack of small notebooks (No surprise there. Right?), favorite wood pen my husband made for me, jar of highlighters, laptop (Of course…), coffee, my pets, stack of favorite books (too long to list), focused, determined, works so hard at her writing she often neglects doing the dishes and laundry.

If you play the game I outlined above, I hope you’ll learn a lot about those you know and have fun along the way!

Happy writing!