New books provide teachable moments for young readers – and fun!
by Mary Ann Grossmann
“The Mukluk Ball” by
Katharine Johnson, illustrated by Alicia Schwab (Minnesota Historical
Society Press, $16.95.) Put this “up north” picture book at the top of
your Christmas gift list. It is one of the most joyful tales (tails?) of
the season. Karhu, the bear, tells his owl friend Zazaa that this is
the year he’s going to the Mukluk Ball, Finn Town’s liveliest winter
event. But he has to earn money to buy mukluks, so he picks blueberries
and sells them at the Blueberry Festival. It’s $2 “for a PAW-ful” that
comes with a real bear hug.
laces up his mukluks and learns to dance; Millie twirls him in a polka;
Mary Ann the librarian shows him the boogie-woogie, and Inga the
folksinger teaches him the chachacha. But Karhu has a problem. The ball
is in January and he can’t stay awake. So he takes a nap snug in his den
until Zazaa wakes him to go to the ball, where the Finn Hall band plays
and Karhu “twirled and whirled, twizzled and spun” until he fell asleep
on Inga’s shoulder. It takes the Shagawa Square Dancers to take him to
their bus and then he is pulled home on a dog sled.
Back home, Karhu snored and dreamed of dancing. His toes tapped in time to the music of the Mukluk Ball.
Johnson says she wears mukluks all winter in Cloquet. Illustrator
Schwab, who lives in Minneapolis, calls this a super fun project for
which “I danced and listened to a lot of music to fall into the rhythm
of the book’s illustrations.” Her colorful, muscular pictures leave no
doubt this is a northern Minnesota story, from the log cabin-style
buildings to Karhu’s den (with a round window), rabbits tobogganing, and
happy dogs pulling the sleeping bear on the sled. Even the endpapers
are covered with colorful floral designs and different pairs of mukluks.
There’s lots of hugging and happiness in this book that will make
readers of all ages smile.
Johnson and Schwab will launch their book at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at Red Balloon Bookshop, 891 Grand Ave., St. Paul.