The Mitten (20th Anniversary Edition)



Elegant art makes this anniversary edition a real treasure.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This book would be a good introduction to Ukrainian culture, especially their folk tales and folk art. 

Positive messages

No heavy message here but the suggestion is that one animal too many (a tiny mouse in this case) pushes the mitten beyond its limit. However, more obviously, the grandmother lovingly knits the mittens for her grandson and, though he is a bit careless about caring for them, all works out in the end.

Positive role models

Though usually out of fear of size, big claws or shiny teeth, the animals move over one by one to allow the next one in.  Also, out of love, the grandmother knits the mittens with white yarn as her grandson requests, and she looks out to see that he is safe and sound. 

Violence & scariness
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 20th anniversary edition is a beautiful book, and one to be treasured, both for the sweetness of the story and the detailed artwork that illustrates it. 

Kids say

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What's the story?

Adapted from a Ukrainian folktale, this is the story of a lost mitten and the succession of animals that find shelter in its warmth. One by one, the animals move in. First mole, then rabbit, followed by hedgehog, owl, badger, fox, and even a bear. The mitten stretches and stretches to accomodate them all, until in the end a tiny mouse squeezes in, up near the bear's nose ... the bear sneezes ... and, well, that is the end of the cozy home in the snow.

Is it any good?


This kind of accumulating story is always entertaining, especially when such large animals squeeze into a very small space ... and somehow there is room for them! But the classic Jan Brett illustrations of this book make an entertaining story so much better. First published in 1989, this book was considered a treasure then; now, a generation later, it comes back to us in a slightly oversized volume, but with the same beautiful animal drawings and the addition of a personal note from the author. It is a treasure, and one of those books that should be shared with every child, especially if grandmother can do the reading!

Painted with nearly dry watercolors, animal characters are sensitively textured and almost looking like woodcuts, but softer, and more expressive. They are set against the billowing blue-toned snow, and  whole scenes are framed by birch bark panels highlighted here and there with  rich colors of embroidered flowers. Details denoting Ukrainian tradition, such as embroidered clothing, painted dishware, fireplace decoration, thatched cottage roof with a stork's nest near the chimney, pitchers on the posts outside, all give a beautifully honest tone to the tale.

Families can talk about...

  • Why did Nicki want snow-white mittens? Why did Baba think it was a bad idea? Why do you think she knitted them for him anyway? Do you think it mattered to the animals? 

  • What do you notice about the clothes that Nicki is wearing? Can you describe his shirt? Do notice all of the embroidery? Where else do you see embroidered flowers? What kind of shoes does he have on? What about Baba? What do you notice about the decorations on the fireplace and on the dishes?

  • What kid of roof does Nicki's house have? Do you see anything unusual

  • next to the chimney? What do you think that is doing there?

  • What is framing the illustration on each page?  You can see through a

  • cut-out of a mitten on either side.  What do you see in the cut-out? Why do you think the illustrator made a frame like that? What does it add to the story?

  • Do you think it is possible for a mitten to stretch and stretch, large enough to hold all of those animals...or even one of them?

Book details

Author:Jan Brett
Illustrator:Jan Brett
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Putnam Juvenile
Publication date:October 5, 2009
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8
Read aloud:4
Read alone:6

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Educator Written bylw1139 January 15, 2010

What a great story!

I love this story. Our 2nd Grade music class is using this story as the base for their music sharing in a few weeks. It is very sweet and has a classic story line.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bywhitaloo January 21, 2010

Music and Children's Literature: A great combo with this book!

The Mitten by Jan Brett is a wonderful book for music education! You can explore your creative movement with all the different animals, you can use unpitched percussion to add sound effects to the animals as they enter the mitten, and of course, there are hundreds of songs to choose from about each animal! It is fun to create a short classroom play or expand it and make it a performance! You can even print masks of each character on It is no wonder this book is celebrating it's 20th anniversary this's a classic!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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