Admittedly I was a little frazzled a couple of weeks ago as I prepared for my full day of outreach programs in between regular projects and library surprises. I needed some perfect books to read with the ESL kindergarten class at my day’s second stop. Then a lovely library patron came by on one of her weekly visits to return a stack of books. As I discharged them, I came across one that practically sparkled. Luckily there was a lull at the front desk, because I had to read this one, and ultimately, tuck it into my “out the road” bag.
The Cloud Spinner by author Michael Catchpool with illustrations by Allison Jay ( Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012) is dreamy and magical with just a hint of the surreal. This special book features beautiful illustrations and a fantastical story that left a group of kindergarteners quiet and open mouthed as I read the soon-to-be classic tale. A young boy who weaves fine cloth from the clouds finds himself at the mercy of a greedy king who demands a wardrobe made of the boy’s wares. The story’s message, quietly and courageously proclaimed by one wise little boy, was not lost on this young crowd. “Enough is enough and not one stitch more.”
The soft illustrations are detail-rich and each page is edged like an old photograph, providing a great stage for the story as it is read aloud. The kids delighted in finding the big-bellied king’s castle in the landscape views and discovering the shapes of animals and things of all kinds in the white, gold, and crimson colored clouds.
Great for ages 5-8.
“That is not possible!”
So said a young storytime friend throughout Extra Yarn, the marvelous picture book by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray, 2012).
I quickly added Extra Yarn to my “out the road” bag once I’d picked The Cloud Spinner. I hadn’t read the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book aloud yet and this was a great opportunity. The pair of stories featuring quiet heroes, villainous royals, and the fiber arts, was a good match.
Annabelle, who lives in a “cold little town where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys” seems similar enough to any kid inhabiting rural Northern towns. That is until she finds a box of yarn that is never ending. She begins to transform town one knitted stitch at a time until a greedy archduke steals the box. He wasn’t meant to have the box and it finds its way back to Annabelle, again full of yarn.
Klassen’s typically uncluttered illustrations perfectly reflect the story, even couching the words on each matte page. In this book, the details are best experienced in the combination of text and images, not in one or the other. A favorite page? It must be the one with Annabelle knitting a sweater for a truck. “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.” Reading this page actually made the kids’ teacher laugh out loud.
Great for ages 5-8.