Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 17, 2012
Genre/Format: Fiction - Mild Fantasy/Picture Book
This looks like an ordinary box full of ordinary yarn.
But it turns out it isn't.What I Think: I love this book! I have been reading this with all of my students and telling anyone I can about how awesome this book is. I'm as much in love with the story as I am with the artwork. I love to knit and crochet (when I can find time) and the textures and colors that Klassen brings to this book are amazing. I just want to wrap myself up in the pages. For I Want My Hat Back fans, there is a special treat in this book! The rabbit and the bear both make appearances...one wearing a fabulously hysterical sweater dress. I would suggest you read it solely for their cameo apperances but there are a number of other reasons to read this book. (Although, I have to say, it is fun when kids notice the bear and the rabbit!) A true sign of a great mentor text is when a book can be referred to again and again for a number of different reasons.
After you read the story, marvel at the artwork and find our beloved rabbit and bear, you can go back and think of the message Barnett is sending to students. If ever there were a book to span from Pre-K through high school, this would be it. My students have been working on inferring character traits, so we have read the book thinking about what we can infer about Anabelle and the archduke. Anabelle is such a great character, she's so nice and generous even when people aren't so nice to her. Mr. Crabtree is such a quirky character and she is nice to him. While we read and infer, we have been also talking about how things change when we accept people for who they are and are kind to others regardless of who they are. It's great that this book focuses on spreading kindness to everyone but doesn't have anything to do with being mean first and changing your ways or defending anyone. It's just about being nice to be nice.
There is a part in the book when the illustrations go from happy and colorful to very dark because of what is happening in the story. The first time I read this book to my son he was so upset at what happened on this page. Since then, I have read it with students from 4th through 9th grade and they all have the same reaction. It's priceless. For anyone teaching climax or a turning point in the plot, or mood even, this book is amazing. It is so apparent that it is a great example of all of these.
When reading this as a writer, what I noticed is that Barnett starts many of the sentences with conjunctions. I understand that there is a place for this but it doesn't work for me in this book. When I read it, I find myself wanting to cut those conjunctions out because I feel like it constricts the flow of the story (but, of course, I don't). What I have been pointing out to my students as we read, is that Barnett chooses some great words to use. He doesn't say "ask," he says "demanded". He doesn't say "threw", he says "hurled". I love pointing out when authors use $100 words. These words really bring the characters to life. Also, Barnett has written a kind of pattern book that is engaging across all ages. I LOVE IT!
P.S. - This is a book about yarn-bombing which is fascinating if you type it into a search engine. This really happens! It would be interesting to debate whether yarn-bombing should be considered graffiti or not. At the Anderson's Breakfast, when they booktalked this book, they suggested working on math skills by teaching kids how to knit and measuring the circumference of objects to yarn-bomb.
Read Together: Grades Pre-K - 12
Read Alone: Grades Pre-K - 12
Read With: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, Stand Tall, Mollly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, non-fiction about knitting, articles about yarn-bombing
Snatch of Text:
"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."Reading Strategies to Practice: Making Inferences, Making Connections, Making Predictions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Characterization, Mood, Narrative, Word Choice
Writing Prompts: Think of a time in your life when you or someone you know did something for another person just to be kind. How did it make you feel or how did it change your outlook?
Topics Covered: Kindness, Generosity, Giving, Bullying, Attitude, Greed, Making Judgements, Knitting, Yarn-Bombing, Integration - Math,
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