Review: The Mitten - Jim Aylesworth

The Mitten
retold by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Ages 4-8
32 pages

Scholastic Press, October 2009

In Michigan, winter goes on for quite a long time, and so there is a great demand by teachers for winter-themed tales.  Our school does not do much with holidays, so secular stories like this one are doubly requested.  I can already tell this new retelling of a classic Ukranian folktale will find a comfortable place in the early elementary curriculum.

Illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Our Abe Lincoln), in lines recalling the style of Maurice Sendak, Aylesworth tells the story of a boy gone out to play in the snow, proudly wearing mittens, hat and scarf knitted by his grandmother.  The mitten is lost in the snow.  In turn, a squirrel, a rabbit, a fox, a bear and a mouse squirm in to get warm.

The only other version of The Mitten I've read is the Jan Brett one, although we have another (Tresselt?) in the library.  I'm going to have to check that one out, because the ending of this one is quite different.  I didn't think it was as cute.  In the Brett retelling, the animals are ejected from the mitten by the mouse's sneeze, and the child finds the mitten all stretched out.  There's a hilarious, wordless picture of her holding the two mittens, one small, one enormous, with a befuddled look on her face.  Aylesworth chose to have the mitten explode into little bits (admittedly an excellent illustration, with freaked-out animals flying everywhere) and the boy's grandmother knits him another one; this is cozy, but not as strong a conclusion.

Otherwise, though, this is a masterful retelling of a very enjoyable tale.  Aylesworth's repetitive, rhythmic cadences just beg to be read aloud.  I immediately began writing the reader's theater script in my head.

Ivy chose this one from my big pile of Caldecott hopefuls.  She predicted the fox would eat the rabbit and squirrel, but was pleased by the actual outcome.

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