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Cover image for The Mukluk Ball
The Mukluk Ball
St. Paul, MN : Minnesota Historical Society Press, [2018]
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 cm
With a lot of help from his friends, Karhu the bear finally stays awake to tango, conga, and waltz the night away at the annual Mukluk Ball.
Added Author:


Call Number
JP Johnson

On Order



Karhu the bear lives in the piney north woods near the bustling burg of Finn Town. When he sees a billboard advertising "Mukluk Ball: Come One, Come All," he wants to go! Unfortunately, a few obstacles stand in his path.

First: he needs to buy a pair of mukluks, soft leather boots perfect for dancing. Karhu brings his innate skills to the town's summer festival. He sells freshly picked blueberries and comforting bear hugs to earn enough for this essential purchase.

Next: he needs to learn how to dance. Luckily, talented friends like Millie the square dancer and Mary Ann the librarian and Inga the folksinger agree to teach him. Soon he can polka and chachacha and boogie-woogie.

And then, the most vexing hurdle of all: with the dance set for January, Karhu needs a surefire way to wake up from his long winter's nap. Here, his friend Zazaa the owl swoops in to offer a solution.

Will the Mukluk Ball live up to Karhu's dreams? The warmth and music and fellowship filling Finn Town Hall might just make for the best night of this bear's life.

Author Notes

Katharine Johnson wears mukluks all winter in Cloquet, Minnesota; her stories have been published in magazines and anthologies.Alicia Schwab has been drawing and dancing her whole life. She is the illustrator of Good Grief and Great Group Skits.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Karhu, a bear resident of a Northwoods-like community, is determined to attend the titular celebration at town hall. He's not bucking the system-bears and people are on equal footing in these pages-but it's up to him to put all the pieces in place. He needs a pair of mukluks (a soft lace-up boot), dancing lessons and plenty of practice, and a wake-up call so he doesn't hibernate through the big January event. By dint of blueberry (and bear hug) sales and an owl alarm clock, his careful plan culminates with his becoming the belle of the ball: "'Conga time!' Everyone lined up behind Karhu. They all shimmied and shook." Dramatic tension is all but missing in debut author Johnson's story, but the sweetly forthright tribute to Karhu's executive function and capacity for delayed gratification should resonate with younger readers testing the waters of independence. Illustrations by Schwab (Good Grief), rendered in thick applications of rich color, have the crafty feel of artwork on the walls of a cozy woods vacation cabin. Ages 3-7. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A bear is determined to dance at the Mukluk Ball.Karhu (which translates to "bear" in Finnish) is an anthropomorphic black bear who leaves near Finn Town, in a setting that evokes northern Minnesota albeit in an alternate reality in which animals and humans interact as peers. During the summer, he sees a notice about the wintertime Mukluk Ball, and he decides to earn money by picking blueberries to sell so he can buy himself a pair of the warm boots, traditional to Arctic Natives (though they are never mentioned in the text). He also sells bear hugs, and once he has his mukluks, he takes dance lessons at the library. As the seasons change, Karhu tires and must settle in to hibernate, but he asks his friend Zazaa the owl to wake him for the ball. No sense of tension ever arises: The owl wakes the bear; the bear dances at the Mukluk Ball; then the weary ursine falls asleep; and people take him by dogsled back to his den. Readers are likely to reach the end with a little taste of the Northwoods but with little satisfaction from the milquetoast storytelling or the rather stiff art that merely reiterates in images the text's stolid chain of events.Dull. (Picture book. 2-4) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.