The Mit­ten String

Jen­nifer Ros­ner; Kristi­na Swarn­er, illus.
  • Review
By – November 3, 2014

Based on a fam­i­ly anec­dote about a great-great aunt who was deaf, and influ­enced by the author’s per­son­al expe­ri­ence moth­er­ing two deaf daugh­ters, this gen­tle, nos­tal­gic tale tells the sto­ry of Ruthie Tober, a girl whose fam­i­ly rais­es sheep and process­es the wool into yarn for mar­ket. In the evenings Ruthie knits mit­tens with her moth­er, mak­ing extras for the chil­dren who tend to lose them. One day, on the way home from mar­ket, Ruthie’s fam­i­ly comes across a deaf woman, Bay­la, stand­ing at the side of the road. She has a baby in her arms and is wait­ing for her hus­band, who has gone to seek help with their bro­ken wag­on. Bay­la accepts the Tobers’ invi­ta­tion to spend the night, and Ruthie watch­es amazed as Bay­la uses signs to com­mu­ni­cate with the baby, her words flow­ing from her fin­gers like del­i­cate strands of yarn.” Ruthie won­ders what Bayla’s silent world feels like, and wor­ries about how Bay­la will know when the baby needs her in the night, until she notices that Bay­la has tied a piece of blue yarn from her wrist to the baby’s arm to alert her when the baby wakes. This inspires Ruthie to knit a spe­cial pair of mit­tens joined with string for Bay­la and the baby, to keep them warm and con­nect­ed on the cold win­ter nights. 

Warm­ly hued and soft­ly tex­tured water­col­or illus­tra­tions fea­tur­ing round-faced, doe-eyed char­ac­ters com­bines with a storyteller’s text to evoke a sim­pler time. Minor ref­er­ences to Ruthie’s Jew­ish her­itage com­ple­ment the story’s more uni­ver­sal themes of kind­ness and gen­eros­i­ty. Of par­tic­u­lar illus­tra­tive note are the charm­ing end­pa­pers filled with pairs of mit­tens con­nect­ed by a string. Includes knit­ting and sign-lan­guage glos­saries and an author’s note. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 4 – 7.

Relat­ed Content:

Read Jen­nifer Ros­ner’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

A Gene Muta­tion, a Moth­er­ly Con­nec­tion, and the Pow­er of String

String Imagery and Jen­nifer Ros­ner’s Novel-In-Progress

Braid­ed Stories

Teri Mark­son has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 18 years. She is cur­rent­ly the act­ing senior librar­i­an at the Val­ley Plaza Branch Library in North Hol­ly­wood, CA.

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