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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Children's Book Review: The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner & Kristina Swarner

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 28th 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

An original Jewish folktale about a girl who knits, a deaf woman, and a piece of blue yarn.

When her family invites a deaf woman and her baby to stay, Ruthie, a talented knitter of mittens, wonders how the mother will know if her child wakes in the night. The surprising answer inspires Ruthie to knit a special gift that offers great comfort to mother and baby—and to Ruthie herself.
With language and imagery reminiscent of stories told long ago, this modern Jewish folktale will resonate with those who love crafts, anyone who’s encountered someone who is physically challenged—and with everyone who has ever lost a mitten in the depths of winter.

     I think that most children's books strive to teach while being entertaining and fun to read at the same time, but every now and them a book comes along that is so beautiful, so moving and meaningful, it really warms your heart and earns a permanent spot on your child's bookshelf. The Mitten String is such a book. This Jewish folktale about a little girl who tries to help others by knitting warm mittens is truly remarkable and worth introducing to your little ones. 

"You are both clever and kind," her mother praises. "You make our world a bit better with every stitch." 

     Compassion, kindness, sensitivity, acceptance - these are some of the important messages and lessons conveyed by this beautiful story. Little Ruthie is a smart and resourceful girl. Her family is famous for their talent for knitting. Ruthie's mittens keep their fellow villagers warm and happy, and she's always looking for ways to improve them. When her family gives shelter to a deaf woman whose wagon has broken down and her baby, Ruthie observes the way Bayla communicates with her child in sign language and admires the mother's resourcefulness and dedication. She wonders how Bayla knows when her baby needs her at night. Curious, she watches the woman and her baby as they sleep and she learns that the woman ties a string to her wrist and her baby's tiny wrist, and when the baby wakes up and tosses around, the string pulls on the mother's hand, waking her up. This gives Ruthie a very interesting idea...

Image reprinted from The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner (c) 2014 published by Random House Books For Young Readers.
Artwork (c) 2014 by Kristina Swarner
     Jennifer Rosner approaches the subject of deafness and disability with amazing sensitivity and understanding. It isn't an easy thing to accomplish, especially in picture books for children. Bayla's character is based on the author's great-great-aunt and she feels very authentic and portrayed in a respectful way. The thoughtful and meaningful text is further enhanced by Kristina Swarner's gorgeous and unique watercolor illustrations. 

    The Mitten String is heartfelt and gentle, full of meaning and reflection. This is a story worth reading to your child, for many reasons. A fantastic idea for a gift, and not only for Christmas but all year round.

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