Top 10 Weird-But-True Details in
Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn
by Cathey Graham Nickell
As a writer, I think it’s fun to hide Easter eggs in my books here and there. Sometimes they are little nudges in my mind, other times they show up in the illustrations. For example, in my first book—Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car—my illustrator drew a cute little black dog into several of the scenes. That dog did not make it to the pages by accident; she is actually my sweet little Cricket who passed away in 2017, and I asked Bill Megenhardt to put her in the book. When I do school visits, students love finding out that Cricket was my actual pet! In that same first book, I created the name Arthur Zarr because I wanted his initials to be A.Z. He adds objects to the car in alphabetical order, so it seems fitting that there be an A to Z theme. Bill even drew Arthur’s key chain on the last page with an AZ monogram on it! Not to be outdone, Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn carries a few fun facts within its pages as well. Here are some of my top ten favorite weird-but-true details from my most recent children’s book.
1. The main character’s last name is Bobbin. Yazzy Bobbin. But it’s never mentioned in the book. I’m the only person who really knows this … but now you do too! I wanted her initials to be Y.B.—in honor of Yarn Bombing! I also thought it was a cute name because bobbins are used in sewing. I decided to leave her last name out of the book, but she does have one!
2. Yazzy’s best friends are Kayla and Isabel. I made up Yazzy’s name from my imagination; but Kayla and Isabella are actually two very special girls I know in real life. I shortened the real Isabella’s name to Isabel for the sake of the book so that it would be easier to read. Kayla and Isabella are the precious daughters of a woman who works for me in various capacities, Tatiana. The illustrations don’t look like the real girls, but the characters were definitely named after them.
3. Yazzy’s favorite color is yellow. That’s why she uses yellow yarn when she knits the cover for her phone! Later, she hands a green phone cover to Mr. Green… because, of course his should be green. Right?
4. Kayla’s favorite color is pink. Isabel’s favorite color is purple. Readers discover this while the girls are at the sleepover at Yazzy’s house.
5. Yazzy’s mother grew up in the very same neighborhood where she is now raising her daughter. When Yazzy and her mother walk by Penny Park, Mrs. Bobbin says, “I used to play here when I was a child.” That’s a hint to readers.
6. Wondering why I named it Penny Park? Since my last name is Nickell (spelled with a double-L at the end), I thought it was a cute play on words. Get it? Penny. Nickel? Maybe I should have named the groundskeeper Mr. Quarter instead of Mr. Green!
7. Speaking of Mr. Green, he cuts the grass and trims the lovely trees at Penny Park. So “green” seems like the right name for such an outdoorsy guy.
8. There is a fountain at Penny Park. I mention this in the text, but I never say that it’s a turtle fountain. I simply write, “Visitors tossed more coins than ever into the now-fuzzy fountain.” My illustrator, Emily Calimlim, is the one who thought it should be a turtle. I’m so glad because that’s the cutest yarn-covered turtle I’ve ever seen! This is what’s fun about a picture book: the author writes, and the illustrator visually brings the story to life!
9. Hopefully readers will notice how multicultural the characters are throughout the book. That was carefully planned so that children can see themselves in the illustrations. Emily did a wonderful job in creating such a beautiful melting pot.
10. Occasionally people ask me if the bird on the front cover of the book is Yazzy. Nope. Just a pigeon having fun at Penny Park. Yazzy is a girl who loves to knit! She also likes birds very much, and so do I. When I was in the sixth grade, my best friend (Nenie) and I tried to save a sick pigeon; we named him Rainbow. That same year, my family also had a pet duck named Sugarfoot. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked birds!