Archive for December 26th, 2014


by Sam Juliano

A deep elegiac undercurrent propels My Grandfather’s Coat, a story about an item of clothing that recycles itself over four generations.  The text is based on the enchanting Yiddish folk song “I Had a Little Overcoat” from which Simms Taback’s Caldecott Medal winning Joseph Had a Little Overcoat was also adapted, and which according to author and veteran first-grade teacher Jim Aylesworth, originated from Eastern Europe.  Clothing has been a popular subject for children’s books, with Margaret Chodoes-Irvine’s Ella Sarah Gets Dressed and Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Extra Yarn,  both of which won Caldecott Honors, but outstanding books by Dr. Seuss, Oliver Jeffers, Tomie DePaola, and of coarse Taback have expounded on the theme to the delight of children everywhere.  Like all truly memorable picture books My Grandfather’s Coat sports a captivating cover.  The book’s renowned illustrator, Barbara McClintock, evokes the great Patricia Schart Hyman with her exquisite line framing and ornate borders.  The titular character is shown in celebratory mode as his ship docks at Ellis Island, the arrival point for immigrants planning on a new life in America.  The borders feature colorful spools of yarn, buttons and knitting needles, items that play a vital role in this inspiring take of preservation, hard work and familial bonding.  On the back panel is a charming recipe for “Grandfather’s Coat Cookies” that includes the five stages of regeneration depicted in the narrative. (more…)

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