Jennifer Rosner
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Short Works

The Mitten String, Front Cover

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An original folktale about a girl who knits, a deaf woman, and a piece of blue yarn.

When her family invites a deaf woman and her baby to stay, Ruthie, a talented knitter of mittens, wonders how the mother will know if her child wakes in the night. The surprising answer inspires Ruthie to knit a special gift that offers great comfort to mother and baby—and to Ruthie herself.

With language and imagery reminiscent of stories told long ago, this modern folktale will resonate with those who love crafts, anyone who’s encountered someone with physical differences—and with everyone who has ever lost a mitten in the depths of winter.

Jennifer Rosner is the author of an adult memoir, If a Tree Falls, her story of raising two deaf daughters in a talking family and a hearing world. The Mitten String was inspired by the story of a deaf ancestor whom she discovered in the course of researching her family tree.

Kristina Swarner is an award-winning illustrator of more than a dozen books, among them Gathering Sparks and The Bedtime Sh’ma, both of which won Sydney Taylor Book Awards. Kristina lives in Chicago. Visit her at:



“Meaningful, touching, beautiful”

I think that most children's books strive to teach while being entertaining and fun to read at the same time, but every now and them a book comes along that is so beautiful, so moving and meaningful, it really warms your heart and earns a permanent spot on your child's bookshelf. The Mitten String is such a book. This Jewish folktale about a little girl who tries to help others by knitting warm mittens is truly remarkable and worth introducing to your little ones.

“You are both clever and kind,” her mother praises. “You make our world a bit better with every stitch.”

Compassion, kindness, sensitivity, acceptance - these are some of the important messages and lessons conveyed by this beautiful story. Little Ruthie is a smart and resourceful girl. Her family is famous for their talent for knitting. Ruthie's mittens keep their fellow villagers warm and happy, and she's always looking for ways to improve them. When her family gives shelter to a deaf woman whose wagon has broken down and her baby, Ruthie observes the way Bayla communicates with her child in sign language and admires the mother's resourcefulness and dedication. She wonders how Bayla knows when her baby needs her at night. Curious, she watches the woman and her baby as they sleep and she learns that the woman ties a string to her wrist and her baby's tiny wrist, and when the baby wakes up and tosses around, the string pulls on the mother's hand, waking her up. This gives Ruthie a very interesting idea...

Jennifer Rosner approaches the subject of deafness with amazing sensitivity and understanding. It isn't an easy thing to accomplish, especially in picture books for children. Bayla's character is based on the author's great-great-aunt and she feels very authentic and portrayed in a respectful way. The thoughtful and meaningful text is further enhanced by Kristina Swarner's gorgeous and unique watercolor illustrations.

The Mitten String is heartfelt and gentle, full of meaning and reflection. This is a story worth reading to your child, for many reasons. A fantastic idea for a gift, and not only for Christmas but all year round.
–Via Amazon


“When Ruthie's family takes in a deaf woman named Bayla and her infant for the night, she's amazed by the woman's ability to communicate with her son using her hands, moving them as if she were working an invisible spinning wheel. At night, Bayla uses string to connect her wrist to her son's, waking when he needs to be comforted or warmed. Inspired by Bayla's creativity and love, Ruthie begins knitting mittens connected by a string, her very first pair a gift for Bayla and her son. This is a beautiful story of kindness, love, and overcoming difficult circumstances.”
–Sara Grochowski, via Goodreads

The Tobers raise sheep, and young Ruthie loves to knit mittens from their wool for the villagers. When her family befriends a deaf woman whose wagon has broken down and her baby, the child observes how the mother, Bayla, sleeps with a string tied between her own wrist and Aaron's, to alert her if her son wakes up in the night. Inspired, Ruthie knits the pair a set of baby- and mother-sized mittens connected by a string and goes on to make more for the local children to keep them from losing their mittens. "You are both clever and kind," her mother praises. "You make our world a bit better with every stitch." The character of Bayla is based on the author's great-great-aunt; Rosner also has two deaf daughters. It is not surprising, therefore, that her portrayal of deafness is extremely respectful and sensitive. When Bayla uses sign language with Aaron, "To Ruthie, it looked as if Bayla were standing before an invisible spinning wheel, her words flowing from her fingers like delicate strands of yarn." Swarner's rounded and gentle watercolor prints add to the safe, warm feeling of this story of resourcefulness and mutual admiration. The "old country" Jewish setting is subtle, giving the story flavor without dominating it. Knitting and sign-language glossaries round out this attractive title. This beautiful story of kindness, acceptance, and resourcefulness will have wide appeal.
–School Library Journal, Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Hand knit mittens provide more than warmth. In an idyllic Old World Jewish village, Ruthie knits mittens for her neighbors. Her family raises sheep and then processes, dyes and spins the wool. They also sell their mittens at the town market. One day, they come across a mother and her baby on the road and provide shelter for them. Ruthie is amazed to learn that the woman, who is deaf, communicates by means of a chalk slate and sign language with the baby. To Ruthie, the hand movements are like "delicate strands of yarn." In the nighttime, the mother also ties a string of yarn to connect her hand with that of the baby. Ruthie comes up with the idea of knitting mittens for mother and child with a connecting string and then also knits sets of children's mittens with a connecting strand to wear in a coat to keep the mittens from getting lost. Rosner's tale, based on a family story, is sweetly nostalgic and filled with warm good feelings. The softly textured paintings and rounded images complement the mood and present a bygone time through softly tinted lenses. (brief knitting glossary, brief sign language glossary, author's note) A sentimental family story set in a close-knit community. (Picture book, 4 - 7)
–Kirkus Reviews


Jennifer Rosner on the Bill Newman Show on WHMP
October 30, 2014
Click to listen or download MP3 file.

Once We Were Home - A Novel The Yellow Bird Sings - A Novel If a Tree Falls The Mitten String

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