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Knitting Threads of Kindness, Love, and Generosity in “A Hat for Mrs Goldman,” “Sophie’s Masterpiece,” and “Extra Yarn”

Knitting Threads of Kindness, Love, and Generosity in Children's Picturebooks

Myra here.

I always find it fascinating whenever I could discern threads of themes among picturebooks that I read. When I first discovered A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, I know that the story rings familiar somehow. Then I remembered reading Sophie’s Masterpiece and being similarly moved by it. Then I wracked my brains again for a picturebook that involves spinning yarns, weaving threads, and recalled Extra Yarn. If you think of any other titles that I may have missed that speak of knitting threads of kindness, generosity, compassion, with a heart that is big enough to cover the whole of the world, do let us know.

Extra Yarn

Written by Mac Barnett Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Published by Balzer + Bray (2012)
ISBN-10: 0061953385
ISBN-13: 9780061953385
Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

*** Note: I reviewed this book a few years ago when it first came out, but I felt that this is perfect for this theme of knitting threads of kindness, love and generosity, so I am resurrecting it here. The next two books are new reviews.***


This story is about a girl named Annabelle who found a box filled with yarn of every colour “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 coloured 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 coloured 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 colours. 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 colours – 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 colours, 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.

A Hat For Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting And Love

Written by Michelle Edwards Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Published by Schwartz & Wade (2016)
ISBN-10: 0553497111
ISBN-13: 9780553497113
Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book is about a special friendship shared between young Sophia and her next-door neighbour Mrs. Goldman. From the time that Sophia was born, Mrs. Goldman knitted her a “tiny baby hat to keep her warm.”

“Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,” says Mrs Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. “This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.”

When she grew older, Mrs. Goldman taught her oh-so-patiently how to knit small, medium, large hats for friends and neighbours. But try as she might, Sophia ends up becoming frustrated because it takes way too long to knit and her hats do not end up looking the way she wants them to. So she decided that she would rather make the pom-poms for the hats.

So busy is Mrs. Goldman knitting hats for everyone else, that she had none for herself. Sophie observed this when she and Mrs. Goldman went out for a walk, and her gigantic heart too big for her body just ached for poor Mrs. Goldman.

And so she decided right then and there to knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman – she would knit day and night (secretly, of course, so that it’s a surprise for Mrs. Goldman) – and she would knit even “while Mama reads her a bedtime story.” However, the end result isn’t exactly what she hoped for.

How Sophia modified this hat as her very own mitzvah to keep Mrs. Goldman’s keppie warm, I shall leave for you to discover. A beautiful story about inter-generational friendship, and the small acts of kindnesses that make this world just a tiny bit better.

Sophie’s Masterpiece: A Spider’s Tale

Written by Eileen Spinelli Illustrated by Jane Dyer
Published by Aladdin Paperbacks (2001)
ISBN-10: 0689866801
ISBN-13: 9780689866807
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Sophie is unlike other spiders – she is an artist. Her supportive family and friends are convinced that someday she will come up with an absolute masterpiece.

When Sophie reached the age when she needed to strike out on her own, she found a home in the Beekman’s Boardinghouse where she stayed for a pretty long time, despite the fact that the members of the household expressed disgust at the sight of a spider and Sophie’s creations. Soon, Sophie found her way to the third floor where a young woman lived, and there she stayed inside a knitting basket, fell asleep, and stayed for a number of years.

When the young woman discovered Sophie, she did not swat her away or shrieked in distaste: “She simply smiled.” Sophie observed that the young woman was actually knitting tiny booties, day in and day out, and she correctly deduced that the lady is expecting a baby.

After knitting booties and a baby sweater, the young lady did not have enough yarn (nor money) to make a baby blanket. But the landlady claimed that she can use the old quilt in the closet. Sophie knew about this quilt: “It was scratchy and drab. Not fit for a baby.” And so, Sophie, now quite old, began creating what would prove to be her masterpiece – borne out of love, compassion, and a generous heart that used strands of moonlight, snippets of fragrant pine, wisps of night, playful snowflakes into an extraordinary quilt.

Reading this book never fails to make me tear up – it is, indeed, a masterpiece.


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