A New York Times
bestselling children’s book, The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale
(1989), written and illustrated by American author Jan Brett, is based on an old Ukrainian folktale. The story follows seven-year-old Nicki, who accidentally loses one of his white wool mittens in the snow. As Nicki wanders in the snow unaware of his loss, woodland animals take residence inside the mitten one at a time. These include a mole, rabbit, hedgehog, owl, badger, bear, and mouse, all of which begin to peacefully cohabitate inside the mitten. The Mitten
has been called “a charming lap book to be pored over again and again” by School Library Journal
. In 1996, The Mitten
was released as a board book.
Narrated in the omniscient
third person, the story begins during the snowy wintertime. Seven-year-old Nicki expresses his desire for a pair of white wool mittens. Nicki’s grandmother, Baba, does not want to knit a pair of white mittens for Nicki because it will be very difficult to find the mittens if they are dropped in the snow. Nevertheless, Nicki insists on having snow-white gloves, and Baba finally agrees to knit them for him. Baba tells Nicki before he leaves the house that when he returns, she will first check to make sure he is all right, and then check to see if he still has his white mittens with him. While climbing a tree, Nicki accidentally drops one of his white mittens, but he doesn’t notice that it is missing. Soon, a mole burrows inside the mitten looking for shelter after a long day of tunneling through the snow. Feeling fit and snug, the mole decides to stay inside the mitten.
Shortly after, a snowshoe rabbit, stopping to admire his winter coat, spots the mitten on the ground. The rabbit wiggles into the mitten, feet first. At first, the mole thinks there isn’t enough room for them both, but when the rabbit enters, the mole happily scoots aside to let him in. Soon, after a long day of looking for food underneath wet leaves and snow, a hedgehog stops, deciding to warm himself inside the mitten. The mole and rabbit are “bumped and jostled” but don’t think it’s worth it to argue with a spiny hedgehog, so they make room and let him in. Just as the hedgehog vanishes into the mitten, a snow owl swoops down to investigate the commotion. When the owl decides to also move into the mitten, the mole, rabbit and hedgehog “grumble” in displeasure, but when they see the owl’s shiny talons, they quickly decide to make room to let the owl in. Not long after, a badger appears up through the snow. The mole, rabbit, hedgehog, and owl are not happy because there is no more room left in the mitten. However, when the animals see the sharp “diggers” the badger has, they let the badger take shelter in the thumb of the mitten.
With the animals warm and cozy inside the mitten, a waft of steam is let out, attracting the attention of a fox that comes to investigate. Although the mitten is full, when the mole, the rabbit, the hedgehog, the owl, and the badger see the fox’s sharp teeth, they give the fox plenty of space. Soon, a big brown bear spots the mitten all “plumped up.” Never one to want to be left alone, the bear noses his way into the mitten. Though the animals are packed into the mitten as tightly as they can be, they cannot argue with a great big bear. The mitten is pulled, stretched, yanked, and bulged to “many times its size,” but it never tears due to Baba’s good knitting. Soon, an acorn-sized meadow mouse squeezes its way into the last remaining opening in the mitten and makes itself comfortable atop the bear’s nose. However, when the mouse’s whiskers cause the bear to sneeze, the force is so great that it causes the mitten to fly into the air and scatter all of the animals in different directions.
As Nicki walks toward home, he notices a white mitten-shaped silhouette in the sky. Just as Nicki runs to catch his mitten in the air, he sees Baba’s face looking out at him from the window of their house. As she promised, first Baba looks to make sure Nicky is safe and then looks to make sure he still has both mittens. In the final illustration of the book, Nicky warms his feet beside the fireplace, as Baba stares curiously at the overstretched white mitten.
Jan Brett is a New York Times
bestselling author and illustrator of numerous fairytales and children’s books. In addition to The Mitten
, her most well-known works include The Hat
and Gingerbread Baby
. Additional works include The Twelve Days of Christmas
, Goldilocks and the Three Bears
, The Owl and the Pussycat
, Berlioz the Bear
, Town Mouse Country Mouse
, The Three Snow Bears
and Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella.