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Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen


Page 45 Review by Stephen

Such a satisfying punchline played out over three landscape double-page spreads which I would delight in reading aloud, with the appropriate pause, to young, eager ears!

Like many a great gag (and so many of Eddie Izzard's) the key is that it's a reprise of similar sentences set up much earlier on and - as ever with Jon Klassen books - that its weight, its evidence if you like, is visual. This makes it a perfect picture book for reading aloud alongside a young lady or gent, letting their ears attend your words while leaving their eyes to soak in their meaning.

It also makes it a comic.*

"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 colour."

There's a little more sepia on the printed page than the image shown here. Only a tad, but it makes all the difference.

Slowly but surely, however, more colour is introduced to this winter world by Annabelle's industrious knitting. First she knits herself a jumper of deliciously fresh and bright citrus colours, and it is ever so fluffy! But because she has some extra yarn she knits one for her dog. When they go for a walk together her friend Luke looks and laughs.

"You two look ridiculous."
"You're just jealous," said Annabelle.
"No, I'm not," said Luke.

But it turned out he was.

Over and over again Annabelle knits jumpers - for class mates and her teacher and for every kind of creature - and each time she has extra yarn. She offers to knit for everyone and everything; even for things that don't normally wear jumpers. Some didn't think she could do it.

"But it turned out she could."

Others believed she would run out of wool.

"But it turned out she didn't."

Such stories of self-replenishment are far from new and, when used as fables, have at their heart a spirit of generosity. Take this altruism out of the equation and the source dries up.

So it is here, but I won't tell you why, although I do promise you that our most excellent Annabelle never gives in!

This book is a couple of years old but was never solicited through comicbook channels, hence us being late to the party, so I am hugely indebted to master artist Ron Salas for pointing me in its direction via Twitter. Mac Barnett's message is ever so brilliant, the words so carefully chosen. Plus Klassen is on as fine a dead-pan form as ever and you may find a certain bear and rabbit oh so familiar! Superb woollen textures.

P.S. On the subject of self-replenishment, when I was very young I was taught 'Love Is Something' AKA 'Magic Penny' written by Malvina Reynolds and it's as good as any guide for life that I've encountered ever since. At the risk of sickening you, imagine me as an angelic seven-year-old (I know, right?) singing this ditty in class accompanied by plinky-plonky piano:

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It's just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won't have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you'll have so many
They'll roll all over the flooooooooooooor...

If you ask I will attempt to reproduce this on the shop floor, including the fragile, faltering soprano, depending on how embarrassed I feel or how busy we are at the time.

The two may not be unconnected.

P.P.S. * If you've not read my argument before, the key to a comic is that it's a visual narrative. If you can comprehend the story without the images then it's illustrated prose; but if you can't then it's also a comic. Please see Jon Klassen's I WANT MY HAT BACK, THIS NOT MY HAT, SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE (also written by Mac Barnett) and Shaun Tan's ERIC which you can also find within TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA.
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