Fewer children’s books are as popular and beloved as Jan Brett’s lively winter tale of The Mitten. Since its creation twenty years ago, it has appeared each and every year in bookstores across the country when the winter season rolls around.
Jan Brett has taken an old Ukrainian folk tale and brought it to life through her skill as a story teller and as an illustrator. A young Ukrainian boy named Nicki wants Baba, his grandmother, to knit him a pair of mittens. White ones, to be exact. Baba does so because she loves him, but gives him a warning too. If either of his mittens gets lost, it will be hard to find in the snow! While out playing, what else does Nicki do but lose one of his mittens.
Except one little mitten gets discovered by numerous forest animals, and suddenly it becomes the home for a mole, a rabbit, a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, and even a fox! The poor thing is getting all stretched out, but when a bear comes by and sees how cozy everyone is, he wants in! The last straw is a tiny mouse, and when mouse whiskers tickle the bear’s nose, one big bear sneeze is all it takes to send all the animals flying. Eventually Nicki finds it and returns home where Baba ponders over just how it grew so large.
The story is one that will delight all children, but what makes The Mitten all the more dazzling is Brett’s illustrations. Brett has a knack for detail, color, and attention to folk lore traditions, which means the story has an authentic does of Ukraine to it. Her paintings are full of life and color and the delicate designs go all the way down to the knitted texture.
The Mitten is one of those stories that can be read over and over again each year when snows fall and winter is upon us. The book is intended for children ages 4-8 and is also available in several forms, the most popular being a board book for little hands and a hardcover for older kids. October 2009 saw the new 20th anniversary edition.