Recommended for Preschool-Grade 3 (ages 4-8), The Mitten is a picture book based on a favorite Ukrainian folktale, a classic children's story handed down through the generations, which teaches about friendship and sharing. The Ukrainian folktale is so popular, in fact, that not only various versions of the book are sold, but finger puppets, and interactive CD-ROMs are also available.
This 2009 edition published by Scholastic Press is retold by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Book design is by Lillie Mear and David Saylor; handlettering is by Kevin Pyle. The front and back jacket art by Barbara McClintock depicts the characters from the folktale, and, additionally, the back dust jacket gives a recipe for hot cocoa. The oversized book, colorful characters, and large font make for easy reading.
In this retold rendition by Jim Aylesworth, the mitten's owner is a happy little lad who loved to play in all seasons. Further, each winter his grandmother would knit for him a warm woolen hat, warm woolen scarf, and a pair of warm woolen mittens. The story opens as the young boy goes out to play on a cold, cold day in the warm, warm hat, scarf, and mittens that his grandmother has so lovingly made for him. After a frolicking, fun time playing, the lad comes inside only to discover that one of his mittens has been lost. His granny tells him not to worry for they'll look for the mitten the next day; meanwhile, she makes him a mug of steaming-hot chocolate (recipe is on the back dust jacket in case youngsters want to enjoy their own mug of hot chocolate as they savor the story).
While the toddler in the story is inside savoring his hot chocolate, events snowball outside as the lost mitten is first discovered by a sole squirrel, chilled despite its fur. Squirrel decides to nestle in the mitten and warm its toes. However, frigidly frosty weather soon entices three other animals (rabbit, fox, and bear) to snuggle together with the squirrel in the lost mitten on a cold, callous winter's day and find warmth and comfort in their new needlework home. All's cozy and well until a tiny mouse pleads its way into the snug mitten and, additionally, bear, fox, rabbit, and squirrel decide to take in a deep breath of air. With the extra air inhalation, the mitten's seams burst apart and red threads spread dancingly in all directions snowy. And it's thus that the animals scamper to look for another place to warm their tepid toes.
The ensuing morning, while searching for the lost mitten, granny and the toddler find yarn, in sundry sizes and shapes, scattered throughout the snow. As they wonder what could have happened to the mitten, both head back to their hospitable house, and granny knits the toddler another warm mitten to be worn during future, fun episodes of play.
Author Jim Aylesworth has authored over thirty books for children, which are loved for their hearty doses of read-aloud sounds, rhymes, and rhythms--and, this book is no exception. For over twenty-five years, he taught first grade, and through personal experience he learned that youngsters love those elements best.
Illustrator Barbara McClintock's books have been honored as New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books four times in the past. She used her own living room, the woods, and the stone fences in her Windham, Connecticut home and neighborhood as models for the ones illustrated in The Mitten. The colorful characters within The Mitten were inspired by Top Cat, a 1960s popular cartoon character, as well as the anthropomorphized animals of nineteenth-century French and British illustrators J. J. Grandville and Charles H. Bennett.
Although sure to appeal to youngsters, this book could have been made very much more educational and enticing by embellishing the text and illustrations with references to things Ukrainian, especially so since the story is based on a Ukrainian folktale. The only reference to Ukraine is on the last page: "This favorite old folk tale is believed to have originated in Ukraine." This text with its accompanying illustrations must surely be a disappointment to anyone seeking an ethnic flavor to an ethnic folktale. The Mitten as retold by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Barbara McClintock appears to me to be a generic children's story lacking the magic and enchantment inherent in Ukrainian folklore.
Addendum: Children may enjoy other books on Ukrainian topics, which I've reviewed--many of them have images taken by me in Ukraine. There are currently over twenty books listed on my Listmania list entitled, "Children's Corner--for the Young and the Young at Heart..." Sometimes, there are several editions of one book, so be sure to find the ones with a review by Mandrivnyk.
To learn more about things Ukrainian, visit the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Readers, you're also invited to visit each of my reviews--most of them have photos (with notes) that I took in Ukraine (over 600)--you'll learn lots about Ukraine and Ukrainians. The image gallery shows smaller photos, which are out of sequence. The preferable way is to see each review through my profile page since photos that are germane to that particular book/VHS/DVD are posted there with notes and are in sequential order.
To visit my reviews: click on my pseudonym, Mandrivnyk, to get to my profile page; click on the tab called review; scroll to the bottom of the section, and click on see all reviews; click on each title, and on the left-hand side, click on see all images. The thumbnail images at the top of the page show whether photos have notes; roll your mouse over the image to find notes posted. Also, you're invited to visit my Listmania lists, which have materials sorted by subject.
Additionally, both kids and adults will find it to be enjoyable and educational to learn the names and locations of the regions/oblasts of Ukraine and test their knowledge by solving the Interactive Puzzle map. Please see my comment below this review for further information.
Moreover, to view excellent slideshows of the 25 regions (24 oblasts and one autonomous republic) of Ukraine (you may even set the length of the slideshow), please see my comment below this review.