Book Review: The Mitten

Rating: ★★★★★

In this Ukranian folktale Nicki, a young boy, asks his grandmother Baba for snow-white mittens.  She protests that he will lose them in the snow, but because he wants them so badly she complies and knits some for him.  When he goes out to play, he does lose one, and it is found by a chilly mole who cosies up inside to get warm.  When a rabbit happens by, he crowds into the mitten, followed by a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox, and a bear.  Finally a tiny mouse comes along and, perching on top of the great bear’s nose, causes him to sneeze, and all the animals tumble back out.  The mitten is thrown into the air and Nicki, on his way home, finds it.

The story is told with well-paced, pleasant repetition and a funny, dramatic climax with a visual joke at the end, as Baba inspects the mysteriously enlarged mitten.  Nicki is a likable and energetic child with a nurturing, sensible adult caretaker, and the animals are rendered in their animal characters, with only a shade of human personality.  But it is the gorgeous illustrations that really make this story: each scene is rendered beautifully, enclosed in elaborate borders that include the traditional folk art of the region, with “peek-ahead” sights of Nicki’s activities as well as the next animal that will be introduced.  This story will surprise and delight children from a wide range of ages, from toddlers (there is a simplified board book version just for them) to readers.

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Publication Information: Brett, Jan. Mitten, The. Penguin Putnam. 1989. ISBN: 039921920X.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 00-04, Amblesideonline, Book Tree, Honey For a Child's Heart, World Nifty 50
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Posted on February 4, 2010


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