by Judy Newman with Alana Pedalino
As I write this first Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week post for a brand-new year, meteorologists are forecasting a ton of snow across the US. On the one hand, those storms are going to snarl traffic and air travel, inconvenience so many people, and cause even more school cancellations, which are the last things we need right now. On the other hand, it is winter after all—and we need snow.
I have been coasting all fall with just a sweater and my Vans, but with so much snow coming, I need to dig out my winter jacket and snow boots. And since we are starting a fresh year filled with lots of promise, I am going to celebrate and get myself—and a few selected family members—a new pair of mittens.
There is something about mittens that is comforting and familiar. We wore them as kids, and as David Vozar remembers fondly, they are often made for us by people we love.
In the spirit of comfort and familiarity and of treating ourselves to something special for a new year, I am very pleased to welcome you back to school with an all-time favorite picture book as our first Book of the Week of 2022—Jan Brett’s The Mitten.
After an unpredictable, unprecedented, unbelievably complicated fall season—fraught with global supply-chain issues that prevented us from getting Scholastic Book Clubs orders delivered to you in a timely way—all unacceptable—we are so happy to be back with the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week Dollar Deal. And we wanted to make sure we chose the perfect title to get the semester started.
Jan Brett has 42 million books in print, with at least 2.5 million copies of The Mitten circulating around the world. So it’s very possible you already know the story of The Mitten: how seven gorgeously illustrated smallish animals—and one big bear—cram themselves into one stray mitten.
In the 33 years since it was first published, The Mitten has been translated into eight languages and received glowing reviews.
“Brett’s animals steal the show…an ideal choice for story hours. And a charming lap book to be pored over again and again.” —School Library Journal
“Readers will sit back, suspend belief and welcome this tall tale from the Ukrainian tradition.” —Publishers Weekly
“El arte es maravilloso.…Brett describe a los animales con detalles naturalistas, pero a la vez transmite sus sentimientos y características con extremada delicadeza, claridad y humor.” —Booklist, starred review
“Les illustrations sont vraiment différentes, dans un style russe qui fait voyager au fil des pages. Et même si on connaît la fin, les petits détails découverts au fil des hivers ne cessent de m'émerveiller!” —User ipomeeviolette on Babelio
Here are a few other reasons I am particularly excited about The Mitten:
Jan Brett and I Have a Lot in Common
I have known Jan Brett, and her husband, Joe Hearne, for 25 years. I do not mean to compare myself to such a superstar author and illustrator, but Jan and I do have a lot in common. We both come from Massachusetts, we both love to travel, and Joe, who plays bass in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was friends with my own uncle Harry Shapiro, who played the French horn. What a small world!
I have also seen Jan in action with children—how her storytelling and beautiful pictures captivate readers and teachers and caregivers. At one Jan Brett author school visit I attended, ten second-graders declared to me their intention to become illustrators after experiencing Jan’s presentation. She is magical and inspiring.
Jan Got the Idea for The Mitten from Three Teachers
I love this story, which reinforces what we all know: teachers—in addition to being vital, critical, passionate, under-recognized professionals—offer a wealth of ideas and inspiration every day for their students and caregivers, and sometimes even for mega-bestselling authors.
You can read about this in Jan’s author interview in Behind the Scenes.
Jan’s Artwork Is Transformative
There is more snow in the forecast today, so I am grateful to Jan for the opportunity to stay inside and play in her illustrated wintry world, which she describes so beautifully in one of our favorite publications, Story Monsters Ink magazine. (Scholastic Book Clubs Apple teachers can get a free subscription to the magazine here.)
“I try to capture the icy, frosty look, a crystalline surface to my books, where the greens and grays still come through. I cover every surface when I draw, and the snow creates a foil for my artwork. That way, you notice that the bunny has a pom-pom on his hat. That’s something you may not notice if he was just in the woods. The snow allows the book reader to step back and look again. It lets my artwork spring forth. I think readers like that.” —Jan Brett in Story Monsters Ink, November 2021
Jan Brett’s World Keeps Expanding
I am inspired by Jan’s ongoing curiosity and excitement about the world around her. She and Joe travel, she creates and publishes glorious new books, and her work is continuously celebrated in new and interesting ways. Through March 6, 2022, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is featuring Jan’s artwork in a solo exhibition, Jan Brett: Stories Near and Far.
Yesterday, the forecast called for chilly sun—but no snow—so I picked up Rebecca and Sophie Rae, and we put on the new mittens I bought for us (next year, like David’s mom, I’ll try knitting some) and took a drive to the museum. I was doubly excited: to see the exhibit myself—and be there in person when Sophie Rae, age 17 months, who loves it when we read The Mitten to her, got to experience Jan’s work in a different way.
Of course, I am not alone in my excitement for our Book of the Week. So many of us in the Scholastic Book Clubs community are inspired by Jan Brett and The Mitten.
I think you’ll find these resources (links included below) helpful to share the magic with all the young readers and wearers of mittens (whether store-bought or handmade) in your life:
• The Book Boys explore Ukraine, where the folktale behind The Mitten originated, in a virtual field trip you can replicate with your class
• Library media specialist Tiffany Williams shares ideas for how to teach The Mitten in Book Talks
• Jan Brett joins us for a thoughtful Q & A interview in Behind the Scenes
• In Cooked Up from a Book, you can let your students give a book talk about The Mitten with a free downloadable activity
We’re so happy to be back!
Happy New Year! Happy reading! As always, please feel free to reach out to me if you ever have any questions or concerns, ideas for new picture books, or tips for how to get started knitting. Stay warm out there and make sure to curl up with a good book.
Order the Book of the Week from Scholastic Book Clubs