Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, is a story about abundance. It’s about one person, Annabelle, a child living in a dreary city, who tries to cheer up a jeering peer by making him a sweater. That leads to another sweater and another sweater, all rainbow-colored, each brightening the gray, wintry city and lightening the mood of her neighbors.
It is a story of believing that one bright sweater given to someone else brings warmth, cheer and connection. In Jon Klassen’s illustrations, yarn connects one sweater wearer to the next—to people and dogs and even trees, whose trunks are now hugged by the heroine’s knitted yarn. Annabelle, in essence, knits together her community. An archduke tries to buy Annabelle’s limitless spool of yarn, but she won’t sell it. So he steals it. But her yarn comes back to her.
Last week, my voice teacher, Marianne Challis, died. It was sudden. She was 58. I worked with her for more than a decade. A truly great teacher, she taught us so much more than how to sing; she taught her students how to live, by her example. She was a gifted singer and performer, and she wanted that for her students, too. She believed in abundance. She shared not only her knowledge of the voice and the body and how they worked together to create sound, she also shared her wisdom around her life experiences. At her service, her dear friend and director, Scott Barnes, said something that we could take with us: “Right now, we are raw and in shock, but as the days go by, we’ll remember the joy she brought us.”
Extra Yarn came to mind. It’s about creating and giving something to someone else with no expectation of a reward, and how the world gets a little brighter because of it. It’s about taking an action when it seems like no action will make a difference. It’s about believing that we won’t run out of yarn if we make one more sweater. As we go into fall and the days grow a little shorter and a little colder, we can warm our world with that belief in abundance and a small act of kindness.