The Mitten Award

Each year the Children’s Services Division of the Michigan Library Association selects a book to receive its Mitten Award. Established in 1999, the award recognizes and promotes quality literature for ages up to 12.

As a Youth Services Librarian for the Capital Area District Library, I’m always excited to hear which titles have been selected. This year’s announcement was especially exciting for me, since I had the honor of serving on the 2012 selection committee. Along with 14 other librarians around the state, I spent countless hours reading and considering over 300 titles.

I was delighted to learn that the winner of the 2012 Mitten Award is Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin, published by Henry Holt. It’s the story of ten-year-old Sasha Zaichek, who lives with his father in the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. When the police unexpectedly take his father away and leave Sasha homeless, his entire life and belief system begin to unravel.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose will grab kids from the first chapter. The pages are not crammed full of text; there is plenty of white space and many illustrations (also by Yelchin) that add to the story and help it flow.  Although kids will find the reading easy to handle, the story itself is thoroughly thought-provoking. It provides a good look at a slice of history as seen through the eyes of a child, using just the right touch to keep from dwelling on the true-life violence and atrocities of the time period.

The San Francisco Chronicle review called the book “a miracle of brevity…juxtaposing hope and fear, truth and tyranny, small moments and historical forces, innocence and evil.” I highly recommend it for ages 9 and up.

Four honor books were also chosen by this year’s committee: 

  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick—Another illustrated marvel from the author of the Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate—A lovely story about art, hope, and  the friendship between an easy-going gorilla and a baby elephant
  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet—A gorgeous book that pays tribute to the creator of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio—The story of a funny, courageous boy named August who, despite his facial deformities, is looking for the same things as everyone else—friendship, understanding, and the freedom to be himself

Find these titles and many more for the young readers in your life by visiting your local CADL branch or

– Cassie V., Youth Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

One response to “The Mitten Award

  1. I just bought Breaking Stalin’s Nose for our school library. I look forward to reading it. :-)

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