This year it was The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen. I didn’t just tear up. I was blubbering so that their father came up to the room to see if I was OK.
I have thought much about this book since returning home. Is this an example of a picture book for grandmas or was it written for kids?
Here is the summary by Goodreads: On a snowy day, Sarah notices that a little boy at the bus stop does not have any mittens. Worried that he couldn't join in the winter fun, Sarah knits mittens for the little boy, placing them on a tree at the bus stop the next day. Each day thereafter, the children look for new mittens, and every day Sarah knits new ones. One morning she covers every branch with bright new mittens for the children. Though she has used up all her yarn, Sarah returns home with a full heart and discovers a wonderful surprise waiting on her porch.*
(Warning: Spoiler Alert)
Yes, I read it through the eyes of a grandmother, but I asked my grandkids their thoughts. Here is what I learned. I think Candace Christiansen would be pleased to know that it didn’t matter that Old Sarah never met the children personally or that the children never went to visit her. Kids are quite perceptive. They figured out that Sarah was lonely. I believe they knew all along that she was the one knitting the mittens. Kids are also very understanding. They allowed her to use her talent to please them and in turn “someone” gave her a gift they knew she would love. A gift that would make her happy and give her life purpose. “She likes to knit,” my granddaughter stated matter-of-factually.
Why do these things seem to come so easily to children? I don’t know. They can be remarkable little people. But, I realized that Candace Christiansen’s way of writing gave them an adult’s perspective and at the same time encouraged them to be observant, empathetic, and generous.
Grandma writers have lots of picture book stories whirling around in their heads. I wrote one myself. This year I want to become better in this area of our craft – writing from my adult perspective and then wrapping it in the heart of a child.