The Mitten

by Jan Brett

facing pages from The Mitten

Jan Brett's The Mitten

Children's book review by Sarah Denslow

Ages 4-8

The secret "life" of a lost mitten

Let’s face it: keeping track of mittens and gloves is hard, particularly when those mittens are the size of a child’s hand and the child is responsible for keeping up with them. If I had a dime for every spare mitten I found on the playground…

The Mitten, based on a Ukrainian folk tale, spins a fanciful tale of what happens to one of these lost mittens. Nicki’s grandmother has knitted him a pair of snow-white mittens that the reader just knows are doomed from the start.

Being the loving grandmother she is, she tells Nicki that after he comes back from playing the first thing she will do is check to make sure he is safe, but the second thing she will do is check to see if he has both mittens.

Of course, he quickly loses one, and wanders off without even realizing it’s gone.

But while what happens to many lost mittens remains a mystery, in The Mitten we get to see just what happens to Nicki’s mitten.

Even though it blends in perfectly with the snow around it, woodland creatures soon find it and burrow down to keep warm. Each creature is rather annoyed when another comes to join them, but the other creatures have a variety of features that make crossing them an unpleasant idea: the hedgehog has sharp quills, the fox sharp teeth, and so on.

Eventually, even a bear squeezes into the now bulging mitten. Then a little mouse comes by. She snuggles into the one spot left in the mitten: right on top of the bear's nose.

As fictional bears are known to do, the bear sneezes a great sneeze, catapulting the animals out of the mitten and scattering them over the ground.

The mitten, meanwhile, is blown away, until Nicki catches it and hurries home. True to her word, his grandmother first checks to see that he is safe and then checks for both mittens. The story neglects to let us know what Grandma has to say about the misshapenness of one of the mittens…

The Mitten is a classic winter tale (one of the most popular picture books ever) with beautiful, detailed illustrations. Kids love seeing all those animals squeeze into the mitten and the expressions of dismay on the other animals’ faces are priceless. The Mitten is a great story to make you laugh about all your family's missing mittens.

More winter picture books.

Read more of Sarah's reviews.

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