A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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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.
Talk to your kids 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?