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Review of My Grandfather’s Coat

aylesworth_my grandfather's coatMy Grandfather’s Coat
retold by Jim Aylesworth; 
illus. by Barbara McClintock
Preschool, Primary    Scholastic    32 pp.
11/14    978-0-439-92545-7    $17.99

Revisiting the Yiddish folksong celebrated in Simms Taback’s Caldecott-winning Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, Aylesworth extends its events over four generations, affording McClintock the opportunity to sample dress and households from the early twentieth century to the near-present. As title-page art reveals, “my grandfather” landed at Ellis Island; he became a tailor and made his own blue wedding coat. “He wore it, and he wore it” and, with a move to a country farm revealed in the art, “little bit by little bit, / he frayed it, and he tore it / …[so] he snipped, and he clipped, / and he stitched, and he sewed.” While his daughter’s a baby, that “still-good cloth” serves for a jacket. Soon it’s reduced to a vest, then a tie for his daughter’s wedding (and later for his granddaughter’s, too), then a toy for “you” (his great-grandchild), and at last a toy mouse that — once “you wore it out” — is left for a real mouse to shred into a nest “until there was nothing left at all…except for this story.” With its engaging cadence and catchy repetitions, Aylesworth’s text propels the art through periods that are revealed in sewing machine styles, kitchen details, a synagogue wedding, toys, and much more. Old-timey and inviting, the book has well-paced pages, spreads, and vignettes that nicely celebrate one family’s ongoing affection and continuity. Author’s and artist’s notes confide some contrasting bits of their own family histories as well as a bit more about the settings.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Joanna Rudge Long About Joanna Rudge Long

Joanna Rudge Long is former editor of Kirkus Reviews and a frequent lecturer on children’s books.

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Comments

  1. Yes, Taback’s lovely Caldecott Medal winner is recalled, as is in a lesser sense Caldecott Honor books by Molly Band and Jon Klassen. This is a lusciously exquisite book, and well deserves both this wonderful treatment and the discussion within the time frame of Caldecott Medal deliberations. I am a huge fan of the book, and frankly prefer it to Ms. McClintock still very nice WHERE’S MOMMY?, another 2014 release. The young kids adore the recycling arc, and there is a irresistible effervescence throughout. This is a real sleeper in the story tradition of Grandfather’s Journey and last year’s The Matchbox Diary.

    Wonderful review, Joanna.

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