Thursday, January 14, 2016

'The Mitten Tree' aims to keep less fortunate students bundled up

The beautiful movement of lovingly knitting mittens, scarves and hats for the less fortunate and the homeless stemmed from the book I am featuring today.  When I was a principal at my local elementary school this was one of the projects we participated in every Christmas.  Our tree in the foyer was dedicated to mittens.  People knit and bought warm mittens (and other winter gear) to donate to the local Salvation Army.  Our tree was totally covered with gifts of "warmth and care."  I put every student's name into a big box for a special draw.  The day before school was out I drew two names from that box and those children accompanied me to deliver the gifts to the Salvation Army to be packaged in Christmas baskets and then distributed to those who needed protection from the cold wintry days and nights that lay ahead that winter.

I had mentioned before that my Mom, who passed away the day before Christmas, used to help me with welcome packages for my sweet kindergarten class every September.  I would give her the class list and she would knit all summer.  She made each child a toque, a pair of mittens and slippers.  It was a labour of love and the kids appreciated having a second (or primary) pair of mittens if theirs got wet and soggy.  Everyone in the class wore their new slippers daily which made the aging janitor very happy indeed.  What cheerful faces when they opened their package and found those items waiting for them to wear and  to enjoy. They then donned their new gifts and I took a class photo with every ecstatic face beaming into the camera hands in the air to show off their new mittens.  Of course the whole class delivered a copy to my mom, who lived just down the street, making her beam as well ... as kindness begets kindness. 

Her eyes would fill with tears when she saw my little class walk by her house all bundled up in her wooly donations as we took a trip to the town library.  The children would all look in her window and wave their mittened hands which meant thank you for giving us these presents and thank you for your warm, kind heart in making them.


"The Mitten Tree"

Authored by Candace Christiansen and illustrated by Elaine Greenstein
Ages  6+

Unwrapping the story...

Sarah 's children are all grown and out of her nest and she is sad and lonely.  She spends her time looking out her window at the children catching the bus for school on her street.  On a cold winter's day she notices the children are all playing in the snow except for one little boy.  He is not participating because he has no mittens to wear and his hands are cold.  Sarah's heart goes out to the little boy and she goes immediately and starts knitting him a pair of mittens with some left-over wool that she has kept.  After their completion she takes the mittens and hangs them carefully on the big blue spruce tree right by the bus stop for the boy to discover and own. 

Sarah's generous heart prompts her to knit more and more mittens and hang them on the tree for the other children to enjoy too.  The big blue spruce becomes a homestead for them... a beautiful, colourful mitten tree.  

The children, so touched by Sarah's willing to give freely, surprise her with a huge ribbon-wrapped basket of yarn so she can use it to continue knitting mittens and thus bless the other neighbourhood children if needed.   Although Sarah never interacts personally with the children their hearts make a significant impact on each others. 

"To this day, Sarah knits mittens for all the children in her town. Every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears. Sarah doesn't know who the yarn is from. The children still don't know who the mittens are from. But someone must..."

About the author...

Candace Christiansen grew up in the Hudson River Valley and was educated at the College of Saint Rose and Cornell University. She has been a teacher of chemistry, math, weaving, and spinning at the Hawthorne Valley School for twenty years and is currently the head of the Fiber Department at Sugar Maples Center for Creative Arts.

About the illustrator...

Elaine Greenstein began making children’s books about fifteen years ago and is the author and illustrator of the popular Ice Cream Cones for Sale. She lives with her husband, Jose, in Brooklyn, New York. 

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