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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January '10 Book of the Month

Introducing Planet Silas' January '10 Book of the Month:

The Mitten: A Ukraniane Folktale by Jan Brett.

This folktale has multiple adaptions; I myself am a fan of Brett's interpretation. This book, and indeed several of this author's works, speaks of winter, with it's cold snowy scenes and beautiful hand knit garments to keep the characters warm (second month in a row with a knit-related theme, by-the-way).

Nicki's grandmother just knows that if she knits Nicki a pair of all white mittens, he will drop one and loose it in the snow. But snowy white mittens are what Nicki wants, and so that's what he gets. Sure enough, Nicki promptly looses a mitten while exploring his winter world, and that's where the fun begins. Animal after animal discovers the inviting mitten and decides it would make a good place to get out of the cold. As the animals crowd inside, the mitten expands to comic proportions, which Silas finds absolutely hysterical. But, Grandma's excellent knitting holds fast and the mitten stays in one piece, even when a bear joins the menagerie.

One of the features that Brett is known for is a three-paneled picture layout. The middle, largest picture shows what's happening, mainly featuring the animals in the mitten, and carries the text. The smaller picture on the left appears through a mitten shaped "window" and depicts Nicki as he plays in the snow and woods around his house. Usually, he's walked near an animal's home without even knowing it. On a mirror panel on the right of the page, the animal then appears leaving it's burrow and heading, presumably, for the mitten. The next page will then feature that animal and it's introduction to the mitten and the other animals therein. I love having these glimpses of what's to come on the following page as it presents an opportunity to involve Silas in the story. "What animal is that? Who do you think is going to find the mitten next?" That sort of thing.

At the end, it is a tiny mouse who triggers the end of the animal's stay in the mitten. Nicki is lucky enough to find the mitten before he reaches home, so there is no chance of a lecture from grandma. The last wordless page, however, shows a perplexed grandmother holding both mittens out in front of her: one the size to fit a little boy, and one that is inexplicably large enough to fit a giant.

Wonderful and fun, winter read, and a classic story, beautifully rendered.


Jessi, Dave, and Alden said...

I remember that book from when I was a child! I didn't know there were different interpretations. I'll have to check it out again. :)

Randy and Nickie said...

When I was teaching music, the 1st graders and I turned this book into a little musical. They so enjoyed the story and loved crawling inside the big mitten we constructed for their performance.

Grandma G said...

Silas, Do you know that your Great Grandfather, Alex Kunz, was born in the Ukraine? Love, Grandma G.