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Jan Brett Books and Activities

Every elementary teacher needs Jan Brett books in their read aloud collection. Her detailed illustrations and captivating stories bring so much joy to elementary-aged children and ignite a lifelong love of reading. In addition, they lend themselves to teaching so many important reading comprehension strategies like making predictions, analyzing illustrations, retelling the important parts of a story, sequencing, and more. She has written winter classics like The Mitten, The Snowy Nap, and The Three Snow Bears. You can’t forget about the Jan Brett Christmas books either – The Night Before Christmas, Christmas Trolls, and The Night Before Christmas. There are too many good ones to mention! Check out the list of Jan Brett books below and be sure to grab the book-based activities that go with many of them!

This post highlights the following books:

  • The Wild Christmas Reindeer
  • Gingerbread Friends
  • Gingerbread Baby
  • Hedgie’s Surprise
  • Mossy
  • The Easter Egg
  • The Hat
  • The Mitten
  • The Three Snow Bears
  • Trouble with Trolls
girl reading a Jan Brett book

10 Jan Brett Books

Here are some of my favorite Jan Brett books to share with elementary students!

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

In The Wild Christmas Reindeer, young Teeka is tasked with rounding up Santa’s reindeer and harnessing them to pull his sleigh. Because they had been out of their harnesses for a year, the reindeer are quite unruly and difficult. Teeka realizes that she can command instant attention by shouting at the reindeer. They seem surprised at the little girl’s loud voice. However, although this works for a short time, the creatures soon become less responsive to the shouting and bullying, and soon they become impossibly tangled up in their harnesses. This causes Teeka to realize that perhaps she was too harsh, and, after apologizing to the reindeer, she tries a gentler approach and finds it to be more effective.

Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett

In the story Gingerbread Frends, Gingerbread Baby lives in a gingerbread house in the bedroom of a little boy named Mattie. Although he is happy with the toys and treats Mattie gave him, he still feels like something is missing.

One day when Mattie goes out to play with his friend, the Gingerbread Baby realizes that he needs a friend of his own. The next day, he slips out and goes into the village to find a friend. He tries to talk to a gingerbread man and woman,  a sugar cookie girl, seven white swans, and a dancing man and woman atop a cake, but they are all still as stone. He is about to give up when he spots a door just his size. Inside, a mouse begins nibbling at him, so he runs out of the bakery with the mouse, the cat, the baker and his wife close behind! 

After a close call, the Gingerbread Baby arrives back home and hears some singing and sees a trail of cupcakes leading upstairs. To his joy, there are many friends waiting for him!

Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett

In Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby, a young boy named Matti is baking a gingerbread boy with his mother. Matti is so excited that he opens the oven too early and out jumps a gingerbread baby! Matti’s mother and father start to chase after the Gingerbread Baby. Soon, the whole village is trying to catch the Gingerbread Baby. Meanwhile, Matti is at home baking again. 

The Gingerbread Baby runs through the village into a clearing where he sees a gingerbread house just his size. He runs inside the house and, when everyone catches up, the Gingerbread Baby has disappeared. When Matti’s parents return home to tell him they couldn’t catch the cookie, Matti is a holding the gingerbread house and the Gingerbread Baby is happy living inside. 

Hedgie’s Surprise by Jan Brett

In the book Hedgie’s Surprise, the Tomten on the farm got tired of eating porridge for breakfast. He started going into the hen house each morning and taking one of Henny’s eggs. At first, Henny didn’t mind, but then she realized she could never have babies if this kept happening. Thankfully, her friend Hedgie offered to help her trick the Tomten.

When the Tomten came to Henny’s nest each morning, she and Hedgie left a different food for the Tomten. These foods were never enough and left the Tomten feeling hungry. He demanded Henny leave him an egg or he would eat her. The next morning, when the Tomten reached into the nest, he grabbed Hedgie and was stuck by his quills. When the Tomten ran away, Henny started to hear peeping. She realizes that Hedgie hid her eggs in his nest and now they’ve hatched into chicks!

Mossy by Jan Brett

In the book Mossy, Mossy is a turtle that lives in Lilypad Pond. She is a special turtle because a garden grows on her back. There are flowers, plants, and berries that grow on her shell, making her look unique and beautiful. One day, Mossy runs into another turtle, Scoot, and the two are amazed by one another. However, before they can get close, Dr. Carolina scoops Mossy up.

Dr. Carolina owns a museum nearby. She and her niece Tory were taking a walk when they noticed Mossy, and Dr. Carolina thought she would be perfect for the museum. Mossy becomes a popular attraction at the museum, but Tory notices Mossy seems sad. When Tory’s class visits the museum, the classmates wonder if Mossy has friends. This gives Dr. Carolina the idea to have a portrait made of Mossy for everyone to see. This allows them to return Mossy to the pond where she reunites with Scoot. 

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett

The Easter Egg is a book about a special Easter tradition for many people. It is almost Easter and this is the first year that Hoppi will be decorating an Easter egg. Each year, the rabbits decorate eggs and the Easter Rabbit selects the best one. Whichever rabbit decorates the best egg gets to help the Easter Rabbit hide the eggs on Easter morning. 

Hoppi is trying to decide how he will decorate his egg. He visits many other rabbits and observes what they are doing with their eggs. Rabbits carve eggs out of wood, make chocolate eggs, paint their eggs, and plant flowers in them. Hoppi cannot think of a special way to decorate his egg and goes into the forest to rest. While in the forest, Hoppi witnesses a robin egg fall out of the nest. Mother Robin is distressed, so Hoppi steps in and sits on the egg to keep it warm and safe. 

On Easter morning, the Easter Rabbit arrives and admires all of the eggs, but says that a special one is missing. He returns with Hoppi, who has won the contest for keeping the robin’s egg safe. He gets to ride in the wagon with Easter Rabbit to hide the eggs. 

The Hat by Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s book, The Hat, tells the story of a hedgehog named Hedgie. One day, while Lisa is out hanging her clothes to dry, the wind blows one of her socks away. Hedgie comes across the sock and pokes his head inside. Unfortunately, the sock becomes stuck on Hedgie’s head. He walks around the farm trying to get the sock off and runs into other farm animals. Each animal laughs at the sight of Hedgie wearing a hat. Although their laughter hurts Hedgie’s feelings, he gives logical explanations for wearing the hat: it’s cozy, it’ll keep him warm in the winter, and dry in the rain.

When Lisa realizes her sock his missing, she runs after Hedgie to take the sock off. As she returns it to the line, she is surprised to find the rest of her clothes missing! The other animals liked the idea of Hedgie’s hat and decided to find their own.

The Mitten by Jan Brett

In Jan Brett’s The Mitten, a young boy named Nicki wants his grandmother to knit him snow white mittens. Although she warns him they could get lost in the snow, she makes the mittens anyway. When Nicki goes out to play, he drops one of the mittens in the snow and does not realize it. Soon, a mole comes by and decides the mitten is a warm cozy place to stay. Eventually, more and more animals such as a rabbit, owl, fox, bear, mouse, and hedgehog move inside the mitten. 

It is crowded inside the mitten and it continues to stretch bigger and bigger. When the mouse climbs on top of the bear’s nose, it tickles and the bear sneezes. All of the animals go flying out of the mitten! As Nicki walks home he sees his mitten flying through the sky. He returns home and his Baba is confused about the large, stretched out mitten. This is one of my favorite winter read alouds!

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s The Three Snow Bears, is a different take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The book takes place in the arctic and the main characters in this story is a little girl named Aloo-ki and three polar bears.

While out on a walk, Aloo-ki’s huskies start floating out to sea on an ice floe. At the same time, the three polar bears head out on a walk while their soup cools, back home in their igloo. As Aloo-ki chases her dogs, she comes across the igloo and makes her way inside. Aloo-ki tastes the three soups and tries on the different boots before falling asleep in the baby bear’s bed.

When the bears return home, they are surprised to see evidence that someone had been inside. Baby Bear finds Aloo-ki sleeping in her bed! When Aloo-ki awakes and notices the bears, she runs out of the igloo and away with her huskies.

Trouble With Trolls by Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s Trouble With Trolls tells the story of a young girl named Treva. She is going to visit her cousins and must cross the mountain to get there. 

Treva and her dog Tuffi start climbing up the mountain when they run into a troll. The troll grabs Tuffi and Treva must think quickly to save him. She decides to trick the troll into taking her mittens instead, and it works! As they continue their hike, they run into more trolls. Each time, Treva tricks the trolls into taking something else of hers instead of Tuffi. 

When Treva and Tuffi reach the top of the mountain, they see all the trolls together. In order to get herself and Tuffi safely down the mountain, Treva must trick the trolls again. She decides to trick them into believing that she can fly. Piece by piece she gets her clothing back and finally Tuffi. Treva “flies” down the mountain and away from the trolls on her skis while carrying Tuffi. 

These Jan Brett books are great read alouds to share with elementary students! Your students will love listening to them and participating in classroom discussions about the books! If you need lesson ideas or activities to go with the books, then check out the Starts With a Story resources below!

Trouble With TrollsThe HatThe Mitten book companion
Gingerbread BabyThe Animals' SantaThe Three Snow Bears

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