Some folktales and folk songs have traction. They are ripe for appearing in multiple formats. Such is the case of the well-known Yiddish folksong, Hob Ikn Mir a Mantl (I Had a Little Overcoat). Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock’s latest picture book, My Grandfather’s Coat (2014), rivals the earlier versions- Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (1999) and Something From Nothing (1992).
My Grandfather’s Coat is set in rural 20th century Connecticut, a deviation from the folksong’s original Eastern European roots. This unique setting allows young readers to catch a glimpse of the immigrant experience in the American countryside. Thus, the story can be contrasted with the majority of the Jewish immigrant stories that focus on the more common urban American experience. Subtle references to the characters’ Jewish heritage are scattered among Barbara McClintock’s delightful illustrations. A Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner table and wedding scene are the most prominent. Moreover, the book mirrors a well-known trend among 19th-20th century Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Many started out in the garment industry and eventually became storeowners.
The repetitive verses along with the compatible illustrations provide warmth and charm to this intergenerational tale. Young readers will have no difficulty relating to the narrator who is looking back at her grandparent’s life. Stories that include references to multiple generations help children make vital connections to their family’s history. At home or in the classroom, the reading of this story will promote interest in one’s heritage and family background.
Exceptional and memorable picture books maintain their young audiences’ attention by utilizing free flowing words that are adeptly combined with engaging illustrations. As a balanced team, Jim and Barbara have found the “sweet spot” for the appropriate cadence. Short passages matched with simple drawings make it possible for readers and nonreaders to follow the timeline of the story and to appreciate the intended messages.
Intertwined within the main character’s experiences are important lessons that can be shared with young children. Being able to reuse and recycle usable objects models the importance of making the most out of one’s possessions. The story also demonstrates how material possessions can oftentimes be overvalued while intangible aspects of life such as family traditions are invaluable.
On the back cover is an easy to follow recipe for shape cookies. According to Jim Aylesworth, a bonus recipe is included in all of his retelling books. I’d love to hear from anyone who bakes these cookies.
In addition to just reading the book for pleasure, parents and teachers can use this award-winning book in a variety of ways.
- Compare and contrast to the original folk song as well as the two other books.
- Original stories/songs and subsequent retellings
- Introductory social studies unit- immigration or early 20th century American history.
- Author/Illustrator study that focuses on this award-winning pair- Aylesworth & McClintock.
- Unit on lessons learned from folktales and/or folksongs.
- Yiddish culture/Yiddish folksongs and stories
- Multicultural picture books- the Jewish experience
- Picture books with repetitive clauses.
- Unit on 2015 award-winning books.
It is no surprise that this memorable picture book has already received numerous book awards. (See Below). If you’re looking for an addition to your multicultural picture book library, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this blog before March 8. You will instantly become eligible for a book giveaway. The lucky winner will be sent a copy of this award-winning book.
Book Awards for My Grandfather’s Coat
- 2014- Publisher’s Weekly Best Books for 2014 list
- 2014- School Library Journal Best Books list
- 2014- NAPPA Silver Award
- 2014- Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review
- 2014- SLJ Starred Review
- 2014- Kirkus Starred Review
- 2014- Featured review in NY Times Book Review Special Children’s Fall Issue
- 2014- Huffington Post Best Picture Books of 2014 Honorable Mention
- 2014- New York Public Library Recommends: 100 Best Children’s Book Selection 2014
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday,March 8th will be eligible for a book giveaway. A randomly selected winner will receive a copy of My Grandfather’s Coat.
In exchange for an interview and honest review, I was sent a copy of My Grandfather’s Coat.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.