The Magic Glove – Searching for childhood treasure!

The Magic Glove

This is a page from a dimly remembered childhood picture book called The Magic Glove (or The Magic Mitten). It is based on a Ukrainian folk tale and was translated into English by Irina Zheleznova and illustrated by Evgenii Rachev.

The story begins…

An old man was walking through the forest one day with his Dog. He walked and he walked and he dropped his mitten…

A mouse comes along and makes his home in the glove,  and, one by one, ever bigger and bigger animals turn up to join Crunch-Munch the mouse who welcomes them all in to the cosy interior of the mitten.

The glove mysteriously manages to accommodate them all, their common need to be warm and hyggelig in the cold winter overriding their natural differences.

I always thought of this magic glove as being somehow like my parents’ bed, where we would climb in on cold mornings and get toasty warm together – we probably read this book there too, reinforcing the connection in my mind between story and family.

Smiley Wiley The Fox The Magic GloveI looked for it on and off over the years in secondhand bookshops and then one day came across the Booksleuth forum on Abebooks, a wonderful place where you can go and post messages saying ” I read a book which had a magic glove and it has characters called Smily-Wily the Fox and Hop Stop the Frog” and someone, somewhere knows, or has a good guess at what that book was.  It’s a great game and test of your memory too, I found myself making suggestions at the same time.

Once you have a good idea of the title and author then you can post a ‘Want it’ on Abebooks and if it turns up in a secondhand book store or if it is listed on their huge site, you’re sorted!  I’ve found all sorts of lost book treasure that way in the last few years.  The Internet at its best is the most amazing Magic Glove! I found the cover of my Moomin book for the Piima bread post through the Internet and people are in general so helpful, even though we are strangers to one another.  It’s as if we are all enthused with the magic of the connections offered to us in this extraordinary way.  This post is beginning to sound suspiciously like Thought for the Day, so I think I’ll stop now…

Have you got any search tips or absolutely favourite sites that have helped you find something special?

Edit: I’ve looked up the illustrator, Evgenii Rachev – there’s a retrospective of some of his work here and if you go to this lovely site created by his son-in-law you can read the whole story and see all the illustrations, not just the ones I’ve scanned in here from my copy  and two other stories online.  There’s lots of information about Rachev here whose illustrations are in museums now. It’s amazing what you find when you start looking!

22 thoughts on “The Magic Glove – Searching for childhood treasure!

  1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    And yes, I do know it’s a mitten! But we always called it the magic glove, so that’s what I am calling it here, the booksleuth community said ‘ it’s the magic mitten!’ and that was the key that helped me find it in the end :)

  2. Tutak

    Ah, but I remember it as the Magic Mitten….but only remembered Smily Wily the Fox, none of the other animals.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I’ve scanned Smily Wily for you and added her above in her Ukrainian costume. The cover calls it the Magic Glove…. but in the book it is translated as mitten…. maybe I’ve got my fingers and thumbs in a muddle here, anyway they found it for me! ;) and I got it from Rose’s Books – Collectable Childrens’s Books in Hay on Wye! There are other later versions which I think are called The Mitten, illustrated by different people and with a slightly different version of the story.

  3. heidi

    I read this book to my grandson not very long ago! We loved it- my daughter got it out of the library, so I think it must have been a newer edition?
    The pictures are totally precious.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      There seem to be two ‘newer’ versions around, but I haven’t seen them, I might sneak into a bookshop and have a look one day… I think the retelling has it as a little boy who loses a mitten not an old man? Is that right? Mine was printed in 1954.

  4. heidi

    Oh – then it is indeed- old. I was born in 1954! LOL!
    Yes, it did have a little boy losing his mitten- and we talked about how easy it is for little boys to do that, if they aren’t careful.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hedi I have just found my way to a site which I think must have been made by the illustrators family as a memorial to him.

      On losing mittens, isn’t there a way to attach a ribbon to each one and run them through the inside of your coat and sleeves?

  5. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Dearheart, can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this little story, thank you! I’m going to get a cup of tea now and read it again! Trusting souls, the lot of them, letting the fox and the wolf in, not to mention all the rest! :)

  6. jan trounce

    Yes, indeed, the ribbon trick worked for my mittens. My Mum knitted mine and, out of desperation – exasperation ? – she secured my mitts to ribbon – or it might have been elastic, and then threaded it through the sleeves. I love the story and its illustrations. For me its charm has something to do with the making of the snug and cosy little home and a lot to do with the beautiful illustrations. The style of the clothes is interesting too, isn’t it. I’ve so enjoyed this post Joanna.

  7. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Love this post Joanna. There is something magical about favourite kids books, and the memories you have of them. Looking back at all my favourite books, the favourite picture pages were all ones centralized around food. I didn’t realise it as a kid, and think it’s rather funny as an adult. I’m lucky that my mum kept a lot of my old favourites and has passed them on, now The Monkeys get to enjoy them.

  8. Amanda

    I loved this little story and and so pleased that you managed to find the book again. This reminds me of the comfort and joy I found in books during my (not always so happy) childhood. Each of my kids had a particular book that they loved to have read to them (over & over & over) and I have kept these special books for each of them to have later.
    I know the internet has had a bad effect on some book stores, but as a collector of cookbooks, I find places like Abebooks to be a constant source of shopping pleasure!

  9. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Hi Celia, delighted that you enjoyed this one! Treasure comes in many forms doesn’t it? Looking back at the not so subliminal messages in these stories and the symbolism is always fascinating too!

    @ Jan – that’s it exactly! So pleased you liked this post :)

    Brydie – Ooh, tell me more about those childhood foodie stories ;) I can think of Hansel and Gretel, and The Three Bears but not many others….

    Welcome Amanda, how nice to meet you! My mother kept many of our books too and I found them when I dealt with her estate and some I had anyway. I have a little nephew, and our original books are all on his shelves now. You are so right about books being a comfort and joy when things are less than happy. An escape and a pleasure!

    You are right about the internet and book stores of course, but it has revolutionized the second hand book trade. :)

  10. drfugawe

    Lovely thoughts in here – thank you Jo for bringing us this. Books are such an important part of our kids’ development that I often wonder if we, as parents, are really tuned in to just how important it is, and how much we listen to our kids talk about how important it is to them. When I was a child, I can remember now how my summers centered around waiting impatiently weekly for the mailman to deliver the next copy of The Scholastic Weekly Reader – it was to me the single most important element of each summer vacation – and yet my parents didn’t pick up on that and use it as a tool in my development.

    And so, when we were raising our two daughters, we showered them with books, and read constantly to them – yet, when our youngest was about 2 or 3 years, we discovered that she had taken her crayons and completely obliterated a page in what we thought was one of her favorite books. I remember scolding her for her actions, but I don’t remember listening to her explanations of why she had done such a bad thing – and maybe her trauma kept her from telling us – but today, whenever we discuss this incident, she tells us that that book was her absolute favorite and that covering the page with crayon colors was her way of demonstrating her love for the book and that picture (wasn’t that what we were trying to teach her as she applied crayon to blank pictures?). And she remembers how devastated she was that we didn’t, or couldn’t, understand – that still hurts.

    Today we laugh about it, but we also know it was a lost opportunity to assist in our daughter’s emotional development – and a reminder of just how important it is to talk about things with our kids, and to keep those communication channels open.

    Today, our daughter collects children’s books – I hope that means she has moved past this emotional incident, and forgiven us for not understanding.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thank you for sharing this story Doc! I think your daughters sound wonderful. I had a boss who used to intone when anything went wrong, ‘most misunderstanding comes from miscommunication’ it was a bit of a cliché, but I knew what he meant, trying not to attach blame and just trying to get it right the next time. I remember filling in all the middles of the ‘a’s in one of my story books – I sort of knew I shouldn’t do it, I think I was doing it to ‘experience’ what it felt like to do something wrong. I wasn’t that happy when I’d done it, so I didn’t do it again, but I must have been older than your toddler at the time, I love the complexity of your tale by the way :)

      So what was in the Scholastic Weekly Reader – it sounds very serious, was it?

      1. drfugawe

        Melanie (the daughter in question) always says when discussing this incident today, “What I did with that book was my way of expressing my love for it!” And my theory, as an amateur human behaviorist, is that her covering the page with her crayons -which she also loved- was her way of being a part of the book she loved.

        Back when I was a kid, Scholastic Publishing Co made reading materials for classroom use – and I thought they did ‘Weekly Reader’ too, but a quick search tells me that although both have been around for many years now, they are two different organizations – they apparently are both still going strong. BTW, Scholastic has the US pub rights to the Harry Potter series – so they’re doing OK.

        Isn’t it awful when you realize your memory can no longer be trusted?

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          I must admit, I have expressed my love for Hamelman’s book (see next post) with the odd pencil note here and there….. so I can’t really send it back now…. I never normally write in books, but there were so many errata that I kept forgetting, so decided to write them in as I went along, like when you get a scratch on a car, the first one is the worst, and then after that you just scribble away – it’s a ‘working’ book, that’s what I tell myself and look how it has repaid me….

  11. jan trounce

    Doc’s comments and memories were really interesting. With hindsight, I think, children sometimes get overwhelmed by their emotions and doing something – such as scribbling on the most favourite picture – is an outlet for that overwhelming emotion which they haven’t got the maturity to express in any other way. What a lovely image too of a young Doc waiting impatiently for his copy of the Scholastic Weekly Reader – I think I was the same sort of kid. Children are so fortunate when parents realise the importance of childhood stories and save the books for them.

  12. Robert

    My siblings and I have been trying to find this book for decades – our family copy got lost somehow. It is wonderful to see the pictures again after so long – thank you very much for sharing this. The memories of this are very powerful! Do you by any chance have a spare copy??

      1. Alice Osborne


        Thank you for your quick reply. I appreciate the reproduction online, but like most bibliophiles, I want my own copy. I will continue to hunt. I’m a grandmother and reading teacher that works with below-grade-level readers, and firmly believe the best way to help children fall in love with books and reading is to expose them to the best of the best, of which The Magic Glove definitely is!

        My best,

        Alice Osborne


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