January 25, 2012

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

I got the cutest book in the mail the other day: Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett, whose website bills him as a “writer and strongman-for-hire.” I should also note that he is currently running a contest for booksellers that involves knitting, and so might I kindly recommend that you team up with your local indie bookstore for this? Why? Because it is AWESOME.

Thanks to the ministrations of HarperCollins’ publicists, I got the chance to ask him a few questions about the book. Annabelle, the main character, finds a box filled with all kinds of yarn (in my variation of this fantasy, it’s all Alisha Goes Around…an entire fluffy box of it…but knowing my luck it would probably be poly-blend in 70s colors). The box NEVER runs out of yarn, no matter how many things Annabelle knits. Oh, and she knits a lot. So word gets around, and (dun-dun-dunnnnnn) ENTER THE VILLAIN, an archduke! You’ll have to read it to find out what happens next.
As a Certified Ex-Graduate Assistant and History Nerd who has had more than her fair share of Habsburg-related excursions in her life, the archduke made me laugh out loud. So that’s what I asked about first:
Why an archduke for a villain? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s delightful…but what made you pick an archduke?

Archdukes are just the worst, aren’t they? At least all the ones I know are. I love the word “archduke”–it’s loaded with many centuries’ worth of ignoble connotations, and I wanted to tap into those associations here, especially because his arrival is so sudden. The archduke sails into almost as if from another story–it’s a narrative move that you see in a lot in ballet and opera and a certain kind of classic picture book I admire. His entrance to be abrupt, surprising, and, hopefully, delightful. I’m glad you liked him.
(The spread where the archduke arrives is one of my favorites. Can we show it? Let’s show it!)

[hey, if the author asks, the author gets… here you go, everyone]

Did you know about yarn bombing before you wrote the book? Or did something else inspire you to show the houses, the trees…even the pickup truck covered in yarn?

I wrote this book back in 2008. And while I know yarn bombing was going on back then, I was not cool enough to know about it. Annabelle’s sweater-making is the consequence of her essential character and her box of yarn, but I’ll bet her motives aren’t all that different from many yarn bombers. I think yarn bombing is really terrific, and I smile whenever I’m lucky enough to walk by a knitted signpost or tree branch.

Did you ever get in trouble for being crafty during class as a kid? (I did, I got busted for embroidering)

I was the kid who got in trouble for doing terrible crafts during art. My gods-eyes were gluey, my dreamcatchers nightmarish.

So there you have it. Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett. Go grab a copy for your favorite Annabelle…or archduke.

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