Thursday, December 1, 2011

Literacy Extension: Jan Brett's "The Mitten"

Jan Brett's book, "The Mitten" has been a favorite seasonal book in our home since Tyler was a newborn. I have fond memories of reading it to him on winter nights as he nursed himself to sleep. I honestly think that I can thank this book for making him interested in wearing his mittens outdoors this year!

If you're unfamiliar with the book, it's based on a lovely Ukrainian Folktale with gorgeous illustrations by Brett. I truly want to dive into the book at sit by the fire and warm myself in their cozy home and don their beautiful traditional dress. The story tells of a boy named Nicki who wishes for his Grandmother to knit him snow white mittens, and though she warns they'll be hard to find in the snow if lost, Nicki really wishes to have them, so she goes ahead and makes them for him. When Nicki heads out into the snow, he of course unknowingly drops one. It isn't long before animals, from small to large, find the mitten and decide to take shelter inside of it, stretching it greatly. On the sides of each page, we also see what Nikcki is up to on his adventures, as well as what animal is approaching the mitten next. Great foreshadowing hints for young readers! When a mouse comes along and sits itself on the largest animal's nose (a bear), the bear sneezes and all of the animals fly out of the mitten, and the mitten itself flies high into the air. Nicki, who had just realized he lost his mitten, spots it and runs to grab the mitten, showing his grandmother that he didn't lose his mittens as she had guessed he may.  

Ty is a kid who truly adores books and I am really trying to remember to create and add more literacy extensions to our activities. This one was pretty straight-forward and Tyler is enjoying the book so much this year that I went right after it.
My idea was to make a large mitten that Tyler could fill with animals, from small to large, just like in the book. I have no idea how to knit, so I planned to use felt. I had less felt that I thought it did, but I made do by piecing different colors together. I am in no way an artist and certainly not one to sew a whole lot, but I was determined to do it as I had a strong feeling that Tyler would really enjoy the activity!

Okay, no laughing (okay you can laugh, but just a little!). This was the final product. Can't say I'll be selling on Etsy anytime soon but it works and Tyler thinks it's just lovely! I thought the glittery lowercase "m" for mitten was a nice touch, though I admit there's loose glitter stuck all over his rug right now. :)

 While I imagined the mitten being larger, Tyler had enough small animals to fit inside comfortably. I didn't want to make it too frustrating so I filled it myself many times and in many different ways to be sure it wasn't too tight. While we don't have many of the animals in the book (I have no idea where I'd even look for a hedgehog or badger figurine!), the concept was there. The fact that the animals weren't the same didn't bother him too much and we talked about how our "story" was a little different.

 Checking out the book a bit while he worked. Here he is looking at the owl page and being happy that we did have an owl figurine to put in his mitten like in the book, the only animal we had that is the same.

He put the animals in small to large, as they do in the book.

We then pretended to sneeze...

...and out fell the animals!

This has been repeated countless times over the last two days. Literacy extensions are hot on my radar now!

After this activity went so well, I searched online for more literacy extensions. I wasn't especially impressed with anything for this age, but I did discover that Jan Brett has a website with tons of activities and coloring pages relating to her books! The only activity I noticed that had to do with "The Mitten" was similar to what I did, but using paper. There are mittens and all of the animals to print and cut if you're interested. I bet that some of you will get pretty creative with this one!

Jan Brett's "The Mitten Activity" printout can be found here
Jan Brett's Website


  1. I have read The Mitten recently. And it's very cute ! Funny ! And I love the illustration and how Jan Brett gives 'sneak peek of things to come on the pages. Beautiful ! And this activity is wonderful ! I will try it with my son, when he is older. He is only 18 months now.

  2. Are you familiar with the book "Before Five in a Row"? It focuses on classic, well-written children's books (maybe 20 or so of them), and describes lots of subject-related activities for each one. I highly recommend it!

  3. Your son may get a lot out of it even now Susan! These little ones can really surprise us... :)

    jkflutterbug: I haven't heard of that but it sounds like something I'd enjoy very much. Thank you! Going right on my Amazon Wishlist!

  4. This is such a great idea for a lesson. The Mitten is one of my daughter's favorite books right now.

  5. What a great idea! I don't know how to sew well either, but I think I can handle this one. I am loving the new layout of the blog. My daughter is about the same age as your son and I know I can always come here to find great, easy to assembly activities!