My Grandfather’s Coat, retold by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock; Scholastic Press, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7. (October 21, 2014)
The chill of autumn is upon us, and My Grandfather’s Coat is a heartwarming way to welcome the new season. In Jim Aylesworth’s retelling of the classic Yiddish folksong “I Had a Little Overcoat” (“Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl”) we meet the narrator’s grandfather as an immigrant passing through Ellis Island. The young man becomes a tailor, marries, and as he lives his life, he wears a coat of his own creation. Time passes and the coat frays, but the ever industrious tailor recycles it to suit his needs. The coat, in some form or another, ultimately makes it through four generations before becoming tattered bits of thread. Even in this state, there is still another use for the remaining cloth. Aylesworth’s gift of storytelling will bring smiles to readers as he extols the virtues of hard work and thriftiness through rhythmic repetition of sonorous rhymes begging to be read aloud. Complemented by Barbara McClintock’s satisfyingly comforting pen and ink watercolors, this quintessentially American tale will no doubt spur readers to explore their own immigrant pasts. The notes, written by both Aylesworth and McClintock explain their family roots as well as the inspiration for the artwork. My Grandfather’s Coat weaves an inspirational story onto the loom of our collective American history. Consider this as a perfect gift for families on Thanksgiving, a holiday as distinct as our country’s creation.