The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett (Illustrator)
Reading level: Baby-Preschool
A Ukrainian boy named Nicki wants his grandmother Baba to knit snow-white mittens for him. She warns her grandson that a white mitten will be hard to find if he loses it in the snow, but of course he promptly does just that! What happens next is the surprising part, as a mole takes refuge in the lost mitten, then a rabbit, then a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, and a fox. If you think the mitten might be a wee bit stretched out at this point, just wait: "Then a big bear sniffed at the mitten. The animals were packed in tight, but the bear didn't care. He crawled in anyway."
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When a tiny mouse squeezes in, her whiskers tickle the bear's nose. He sneezes, and "Aaaaa-aaaaa-ca-chew!" all the animals fly out of their crocheted cave. As the mitten sails through the air, Nicki spots it, reclaims it, and takes it home to show his smiling Baba.
Jan Brett is the illustrator of many well-known folktales, fairy tales, and poems, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Owl and the *censored*cat, by Edward Lear. Her special signature in her detailed artwork is the intricate borders, seen in this book as birch-bark panels with embroidered details and mitten-shaped vignettes offering additional insights into the story line. Brett is at her best when she illustrates animals, and the expressions on the faces of her creatures are a delight. She carefully researched the costumes, furniture, and house in this traditional Ukrainian tale--all are authentic. A fine story to read on a frosty night with a cup of hot chocolate, and if you ever get your fill of The Mitten, you can always try its delightfully original companion book, The Hat, winner of the 1998 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.