My Grandfather’s Coat

My Grandfather's Coat book cover

This is a very well-done retelling of a Yiddish folksong, “I Had a Little Overcoat.”

My Grandfather’s Coat
retold by Jim Aylesworth; illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Scholastic Press, 2014
ISBN 978-0-439-92545-7
Picture book, fiction, folksong
32 unnumbered pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Dewey: 398.2
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 2.4
Lexile measure: 910
YHBA 2016-2017 picture book nominee
4 out of 5 stars

My Grandfather’s Coat is a retelling of a Yiddish folksong, “I Had a Little Overcoat.” The story begins with a young man coming to America on a ship. We see him posing as they pass in front of the Statue of Liberty. This boy becomes a tailor, meets a woman, and asks her to marry him. When she agrees, he makes a handsome blue coat to wear on his wedding day. He wears the coat until he wears it out, and then he cuts it smaller and makes a jacket.

The story features several repeated refrains. The first repeats:

My grandfather loved the jacket, and he wore it, and he wore it. And little bit by little bit, he frayed it, and he tore it, until at last…he wore it out!

Once he wears it out, the second repeated refrain begins:

He went right to work, and he snipped, and he clipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and out of the still-good cloth of his smart jacket, he made…”

The fabric transforms from coat, to jacket, to vest, to tie, to kittens’ toy, to a cozy nest, until at last it is nothing at all, except as remembered in this story.

Barbara McClintock’s ink and watercolor illustrations perfectly accompany the story. There is an old-fashioned feel to the style which matches the folk story. McClintock has also done an excellent job aging the characters in the story in realistic and recognizable ways. She has also incorporated changing fashions and changes in the grandfather’s sewing machines to show the progression of time.

Children will enjoy this addition to the folk story genre because of the repetition and the transformation of the coat. Young children can predict what the next version of the garment may be.

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