The Memory Coat

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The Memory Coat
Series: Multicultural Stories, Immigrant Stories
Genres: Juvenile Fiction, Picture Books
Tags: Ages 5-8, Ages 8-12
ASIN: 0590677179
ISBN: 0590677179

The Memory Coat tells about coming into Ellis Island from Russia where she and her family are ready to start a new life in America.

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About the Book

The Memory Coat tells about coming into Ellis Island from Russia where she and her family are ready to start a new life in America, so when cousin Grisha is singled out by an inspector, Rachel has to think quickly and uses an old tattered coat in an unusual way to keep everyone together.

About the Author:

Elvira Woodruff is the author of over twenty picture books and novels for young readers including George Washington’s Socks. Most recent books include Fearless and Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara. Learn more about her here.

A Few Reviews:

“An immigrant boy’s tattered woolen coat helps secure his entrance to America in this thoughtful picture book. Grisha, whose parents have died, now lives with his cousin Rachel’s boisterous family in a Russian shtetl. Grisha misses his parents terribly, though he finds comfort in playing storytelling games with Rachel (“they were the best of friends”) and in wearing the now-ragged coat sewn by his mother. But after cossacks terrorize the Jews of the shtetl, Rachel’s family flees to America. At Ellis Island an inspector notes a scratch on Grisha’s eye and marks his coat, indicating that he is rejected. Luckily, quick-thinking Rachel turns Grisha’s coat inside out, allowing him to pass with the rest of the family. Woodruff (The Orphan of Ellis Island) steeps her tale in history, and at times the abundance of scene-setting detail bogs down the story’s pacing. Dooling’s (Mary McLean and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade) evocative oil paintings range from low-contrast two-color portraits to full-color scenes; many exude great warmth. A black-and-white spread depicting a huddled band of people, with anxious, strained faces, is particularly memorable. Endnotes supply facts about the plight of Russian Jews in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the mechanics of immigration and the role of Ellis Island.”  –Reed Business Information, Inc.

“Kindergarten-Grade 3-A moving story of a family emigrating to the United States from Russia at the turn of the century. To while away the days in their small village, or shtetl, Rachel makes up stories and her orphaned cousin draws pictures in the dirt or snow to illustrate them. Although Rachel’s mother offers to make Grisha a new coat, the boy clings to his threadbare jacket because it reminds him of his mother. When Russian soldiers come to round up the Jews, the family is forced to flee and makes the long, arduous journey to America. Grisha is nearly turned away by immigration authorities at Ellis Island because of a cut on his eye. Rachel saves the situation when she turns his shabby coat inside out to hide the doctor’s chalk mark. Realistic yet impressionistic oil paintings in subdued tones evoke scenes from village and farm life in the old country, while sepia-toned illustrations depict the hardships of the voyage and the grimness of the customs inspection. A touching story of immigration and the resiliency of those who underwent the transition, told with the fondness of a cherished memory.”  —Sally R. Dow, Ossining Public Library, NY

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