Monday, February 10, 2014

Reading: The Missing Mitten Mystery

Growing up in Indiana, wearing mittens, a hat, snow boots, and snow pants to school was commonplace from December to March.  Sure, it took my classmates and I a quarter of an hour to lace up our boots and buckle the suspenders of our swishy snow pants, but by the time we got outside for recess - three times a day, mind you - those few minutes we had of building snowmen, making snow angels, and jumping up and down to stay warm were totally worth it!  Every year, I seemed to go through countless pairs of mittens, always losing a mate on the playground or in the backyard or stuck deep inside the puffy arm of my marshmallow coat.  

In The Missing Mitten Mystery, young Annie retraces her steps to find her missing red mitten.  As she backtracks, she problem solves to think about what possibly could have happened to her mitten.  Perhaps a bird took it for its nest? Maybe a mouse wanted to use it as a sleeping bag!  Or, maybe Annie and Miss Seltzer could plant her other mitten and grow mitten trees so that Annie could give everybody mittens as Christmas presents next winter!  Author and illustrator Steven Kellogg tapped into the imagination of a child to create this book and to tell a charming story about a missing mitten.  The main character of his book embodies leadership, demonstrates problem solving, and showcases perseverance, as she doesn't give up the search for her missing mitten!  This story is ideal for analyzing characters, and it lends itself to a study of sequence, as students can go back and help Annie retrace her steps!  Ideal for kindergarten through second grade, The Missing Mitten Mystery has light text on each page, uses mostly sight words, and incorporates repetitive phrasing, such as "But no mitten."  

Besides the text, the illustrations in The Missing Mitten Mystery really bring the story to life!  For one thing, every page features brightly colored images that capture the essence of winter.  Most of the pages showcase full-bleed drawings, but when the character imagines where her mitten could be or thinks about what she might do in the future, the images are framed to help the reader differentiate between Annie's thoughts and Annie's present reality.  Diagonal lines show the imprints of sled tracks in the snow, and readers can follow Annie's path from the footprints left in the snow.  The winter sky is yellow, orange, white, blue, and gray, similar to the evening sky I often see in Virginia in the winter: a reminder of summer against a cold sky.  It's interesting how colorful Stephen Kellogg depicted winter to be!  From the bright colors of Annie's winter clothes to the light streaming inside Miss Seltzer's home, winter suddenly feels tropical and warm! 

While reading The Missing Mitten Mystery, I was reminded of another book I read earlier this winter titled Snowflakes Fall by Patricia Maclachlan.   I realized that Stephen Kellogg also illustrated Snowflakes Fall, as he has a very distinct, pleasant style of illustrating books. I visited his website and realized that he has written and illustrated many other picture books that I am familiar with, including Johnny Appleseed,  The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash, and If You Made a Million.  I was eager to see the new books Stephen has coming out, and you can learn about these at his website, too!  

The Missing Mitten Mystery is a fun story applicable to many standards.  The illustrations are memorable for children, and they will probably recognize many of the images from other books drawn by Stephen Kellogg.  I am excited to add more of his books to my picture book collection! 

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