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.
- If a Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard by Jennifer Rosner
- Esau’s Blessing: How the Bible Embraces Those with Special Needs by Ora Horn Prouser
- Reading List: Jewish Folktales