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Monday Reading: On Courage and Colors, Black Dog and Extra Yarn and February Winner of AWB Reading Challenge

Mon Reading Button PB to YA


It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Reviews, Winner of AWB for February, and Miscellany Posts

Sign-ups for the Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge is still open. Do join us and sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.


Congratulations Tin of Rabbitin, our February Winner, for your review of Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up. Please send your details (home address and phone number) to gatheringbooks (at) yahoo (dot) com so Pansing Books can send the book over to you.



Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Challenge: I is for Ice Kachang and Indonesian Mixed Fruits

Photo Journal: A Love Affair with an Orchid

Photo Journal: Elements

Book Hunting Expedition (42): Launch of Bimonthly Theme – Oddballs and Misfits, The Surreal and the Peculiar: A Celebration of Beautiful Strangenesses

Wonderful widget crafted by the extremely talented Iphigene.
Wonderful widget crafted by the extremely talented Iphigene.

We have just recently launched our new bimonthly theme for March/April on Oddballs and Misfits, the Surreal and the Peculiar: A Celebration of Beautiful Strangenesses {and Love to our Own Bookshelves}. In keeping with our theme and our previous one entitled Crazy Over Cybils, I am sharing two Cybils Finalists for the Fiction Picture Book Category which I saved for review until our present theme as it seems more fitting to be shared now.

Extra Yarn IMG_4900

Story By: Mac Barnett
Illustrated by: 
Jon Klassen
Borrowed the book from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This story is about a girl named Annabelle who found a box filled with yarn of every color “in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys.” That introduction alone was enough to reel me in. This seemingly-magical box never.. and I mean never.. runs out of colored yarn. When Annabelle finished knitting a sweater for herself, she had enough leftover for her dog Mars.

It is not surprising then that people found her an ‘oddball’ a ‘misfit’ as she is the only colored creature in a town filled with grays, whites, blacks and browns. She has been called “ridiculous” by Nate (turns out he was just jealous) and a “terrible distraction” by her teacher Mr. Norman who simply cannot teach with everyone turning around to look at her colors. It turns out she can make sweaters for them and have more than enough leftover for “all the dogs and all the cats and for other animals too” in the entire town, the houses knitted and framed with rainbow colors – changing everything they see around them – very reminiscent of the movie Pleasantville.


News about this remarkable girl with her magic box of yarn traveled fast and soon people from all over the world came to see Annabelle’s famous sweaters and her box of yarn, her fingers deftly knitting colors, transforming them into varied shapes and figures that would redefine whoever wears them.


Of course a story would not be complete without an arch-nemesis – the cue for the archduke who entered the picture and demanded to see the little girl who never runs out of yarn as he offered one million dollars for her box of yarn, his snooty face upturned, feathered hat trailing behind him, even going as far as offering ten million! take it or leave it! to which Annabelle replied with nary a doubt or indecision “Leave it,” said Annabelle. “I won’t sell the yarn.” How the story unravels from here onwards, I shall leave for you to discover. More than anything, this book (destined to be a classic, I feel) reminds me that what we find in things are those we already have within us.

IMG_4991Black Dog

Story and Artwork ByLevi Pinfold
Templar Publishing, 2011
Borrowed the book from the public library. Book photos taken by me.

I have never heard of Levi Pinfold until I discovered Black Dog through Cybils, and for that alone, I am forever grateful. The oil paintings are astounding and filled with so much painstaking care and detail and roaring aliveness.  The structured panels on one page that give off a graphic-novel-feel to the narrative matched with full page illustrations on the next page – worked so well for me, this must be one of my favorite reads for the year. Yet despite its surreal vibe and its capacity to find humor in non-sequiturs and the absurd, there is a touch of the familiar as it shows how a family deals with fear, anxiety and apprehension – and how courage can be found in ‘small’ unlikely places.

One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family. Mr. Hope was the first to see it.

“My goodness!” he cried, dropping his toast. He didn’t waste any time in phoning the police.

“There’s a black dog the size of a tiger outside my house!” he told the policemen.


As the story progressed, the changes in perspective become more apparent with the black dog becoming as big as the size of an elephant (from Mrs. Hope’s eyes), the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (from Adeline Hope’s vision), as huge as a Big Jeffy (according to Maurice Hope who misses poetic opportunities). And so afraid were they of the lurking black dog outside the house that the entire family hid under the covers, closed the curtains, and turned off the lights in the hope that this huge thing would leave. But not the “youngest member of the Hope family, called Small (for short).” Upon seeing that everyone seems to be worked up over some creature outside their house, this brave little oddball dressed herself up, went outside, and confronted this Black Dog with “Crikey, you ARE big” as she scurried into the lowering trees, hurried through the frozen pond and scuttled through the playground.


This was also my eleven year old daughter’s favorite and she summed the entire picture book by saying that it’s about finding courage in the small (and big) things. I thought that it also spoke about important themes such as confronting one’s fears and having the littlest child see through the heart of things. It also shows how anxiety can be unreasonably amplified among a group of scared people. I love its allegorical feel as it plays with perspectives – how fear grows in the telling, and how ultimately it was held in the palm of Small’s hand.

Currently Reading



I finished reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s There is No Long Distance Now over the weekend. It was not as riveting as I hoped it would be. I suppose I am craving for poetry at this point, and I may have been more used to Nye’s verse. I am currently reading through two books Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs because I feel that it’s perfect for our theme and I hunted this from my own bookshelves (needed to dust it off especially for March/April) and Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz otherwise known as Splendors and Glooms. I have a feeling I’d let go of the latter as both are very thick novels. I shall see how it goes.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?


Extra Yarn is Caldecott Honor for 2012 and Cybils Finalist 2012.

Black Dog is a Cybils Finalist for 2012.

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 14 of 35


50, 51 of 150

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

17 comments on “Monday Reading: On Courage and Colors, Black Dog and Extra Yarn and February Winner of AWB Reading Challenge

  1. Miss. Peregrine’s book was all over the blogs with such positive reviews. I do hope you enjoy it as well.


  2. I won! Yay! I e-mailed the shipping details already. 😀

    I have been eyeing Miss Peregrine’s for some time now. I’m eager to know how it goes with you.

    I am currently reading Hero by Perry Moore. It’s a superhero themed YA novel. it’s going great so far. 🙂


  3. Beautiful books! Enjoy all the great reads!


  4. I enjoyed the Miss Peregrine’s when I read it. I didn’t love Extra Yarn when I first read it, but after reading it again and again I feel in love with the message. Thanks for sharing.


  5. I just finished Splendors and Glooms! You are right, it is very long. Very well-written, but just a bit too thick for my tastes. I have a short attention span, though! I really enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s up until the end…but I don’t really remember what about the end I didn’t like, it’s been so long since I read it! Must be about time for a reread!


  6. I keep hearing different things for Miss Peregrine. Like you, I have it, but still haven’t read it. I loved Extra Yarn and Black Dog-terrific, and unusual, picture books. Thanks Myra!


  7. I LOVED Miss Peregine – and so have my sixxth graders. Black Dof looks beautiful – lovely art work and storyline. Thanks, Myra!


  8. I’ve heard really good things about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, hope you enjoy it.


  9. Need to find a copy of Extra Yarn. I’ve heard so many good things about it.


  10. I LOVE Black Dog. So pleased that your daughter enjoyed it too. I haven’t shared it with my class yet and can’t wait to do so.A few years ago I did a theme of courage in picture books – this one would be absolutely perfect as an addition to my list. Extra Yarn on the other hand is already a class favourite. We currently have 3 copies (mine and 2 from library) And they are always being read!


  11. I haven’t heard of Fire Spell but the rest are all books I’ve been wanting to read, especially Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I’m looking forward to seeing what titles you come up with for your current theme!


  12. Thank you for these reviews, Myra. I especially want to read Black Dog now, based on the illustrations alone! I had heard of Extra Yarn, but have yet to read it. Both are on my list now!


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