Sunday, January 31, 2010

Not Always Room for One More! The Mitten, retold by Jim Aylesworth

...On the cold, cold day of this story, a little boy dressed warmly in his hat, his scarf, and his mittens and went outside to play.

He played and he played and he played. But when at last he came home, he discovered that one of his mittens was lost.

"OH, NO!" said the little boy.

"Don't worry," said his grandmother. We'll find it tomorrow."

The little boy is sad to lose his mitten, one from the set--matching warm, woollen red hat, scarf, and mittens--his grandmother had knit him, but one boy's loss is another squirrel's gain. Finding the bright mitten beside the boy's sled tracks, a chilly squirrel knows just what to do with it.

My toes are cold as ice.
This mitten looks so cozy.
And warm toes would be so nice."

The squirrel squeezes inside and is soon snoozing cozily inside his warm new bed. But soon comes a rabbit, then a fox, and finally a bear, all with the same icy toes and the same desire to share a warm red mitten-shaped sleeping bag. All three manage to squ-e-e-e-ze inside and snuggle up for a long winter's nap, but when a little mouse requests the same privileges, there is more than a little resistance:

"WE CAN'T!" said the bear.

"TOO FULL!" said the fox.

"NO WAY!" said the rabbit.

"IMPOSSIBLE!" said the squirrel.

"PL-E-E-E-A-SE!" said the little mouse.

The already toasty animals relent reluctantly, and the little mouse begins the struggle to wiggle inside the well-stretched red mitten. At first their luck--and Grandmother's knitting--seem to be holding, but suddenly the mitten, stretched to its limit, explodes in a tangle of shredded red yarn, and the snowy sleepover is over.

"What could have happened?" asked the little boy the next morning, as he and his grandmother gaze in amazement at the bits and pieces of his little red mitten scattered all over the snow.

"I have no idea," said the grandmother, "but don't worry. I can knit another." And because she loved him, that is exactly what she did.

Jim Aylesworth's recent retelling of the old Ukranian tale, The Mitten (Scholastic, 2009), combines his warm rhymes with the folksy illustrations of Barbara McClintock in a winning winter's tale, rivaling Jan Brett's fine and venerable version, also titled The Mitten (20th Anniversary Edition).

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  • We only discovered the Jan Brett version this year and it's hard to believe there's another version that gives it a run for its money, but I'll certainly look out for Aylesworth's version now.

    By Anonymous Zoe @ Playing by the book, at 3:50 AM  

  • Interestingly, there are quite a few picture books based (sometimes loosely, sometimes not) with this folk motif. Often, it's a boat that keeps taking on passengers until it's swamped; occasionally, it's a house or animal den or whatever:

    Cf. There's Always Room for One More by Dieter Schubert, with animal characters, and Mr. Gumpy's Outing by the wonderful English author/illustrator,John Burningham, with a crusty old man who shares his boat with a series of animals, with a gruff warning to keep still--or suffer the natural consequences.

    An absolutely delightful variant (and Caldecott Honor Book) was Margot and Harve Zemach's It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale, in which a man finds his household, with mother-in-law and boisterous children, too crowded--until a rabbi's wise advice shows him what really crowded feels like.

    Check your library for these and have a little literary fun with the "alike" and "different" elements of these. Happy reading!

    By Blogger GTC, at 9:44 AM  

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