I know, I know. I’m about two weeks late. But I have been looking forward to recommending this book and I really do think it can be read at any time of year. Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Daniel Minter (Albert Whitman & Co., $6.99) is an excellent book about community, collaboration, and overcoming the obstacles that keep us from moving forward. Seven brothers live in an African village. They fight, bicker, squabble, and are hindered by their own distrust and skepticism. Their father leaves them each a spool of thread with the injunction that they must spin the thread into gold by sundown or be turned out as beggars. The brothers, as expected, bicker, fight, and squabble about the best way to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. They carefully guard their own thread, unwilling to sacrifice or lose it. Ultimately they discover that by combining their seven spools they can create intricate and exquisite cloth, which they then sell at the market (for gold). Normally I’m not a fan of didactic books. Usually these types of books trip over themselves trying to make a point and forget to produce a quality narrative. Seven Spools of Thread is well written and an interesting story. But mostly it is gorgeous. I love the illustrations. Minter’s linoleum block prints are very interesting to look at; each brother has a distinct personality which connects the reader to the narrative. In addition, the illustrations themselves visually reference the importance of fabric and weaving to this particular community. These visual references remind the reader that it’s not the gold so much that is important, but that the brothers create something useful and beautiful for the community.