|Minna's patchwork coat|
Author: Mills, Lauren A.
In the poverty of the Appalachian coal country in 1908, eight-year-old Minna's life gets even more difficult after her father dies of black lung, and that winter she cannot go to school because she does not have a coat--until the quilting mothers make her a coat using pieces of cloth from their own lives, each with a special story behind it.
School Library Journal (09/01/15)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 09/01/2015 Gr 4–6—An expanded, middle grade version of the author's picture book The Rag Coat (Little, Brown, 1991). Minna's family has it tougher than other people living in their Appalachian mountain region. Her papa, sickened from his job in the coal mines, stays home more and more frequently. Minna's one wish is to go to school where she can make friends, but the family is too poor to afford a coat—a necessity for the harsh winter months. Her only friends are "Aunt" Nora, a Cherokee healer, and Nora's mixed-race grandson, Lester. Aunt Nora teaches Minna about the curative powers of plants, along with lessons of Native American wisdom. In return, the eight-year-old teaches shy Lester how to read. There are no schools for people of color in the area, so it's a risky venture. Minna's friendship with Lester exposes her to prejudice and cruelty from the same children she hopes to befriend at school. Sadly, her beloved papa dies, and soon after, her mother must make ends meet by joining the Quilting Moms. The women create a patchwork coat for Minna, made out of scraps from everyone in the area. While they sew, they tell stories connected to each piece of fabric, describing the sorrows and joys of the locals. From these tales, Minna learns much about the children in the town. But friendship eludes her when she starts school—she is teased about her ragged clothes and her relationship with Lester. Minna hopes that bringing her new, treasured coat on Sharing Day will turn things around—her acceptance doesn't come easily, though. Readers can immerse themselves in a culture and time where things moved at a slower pace and common sense values created from warmth and love are given room to exist and thrive. The delicate, ethereal pencil drawings provide an additional lens into this story. The emotions of the characters are sensitively rendered, and one can almost smell the pine-scented air and wood-burning fireplace. VERDICT A cozy, leisurely peek into a turn-of-the century Appalachian family.—Diane McCabe, John Muir Elementary, Santa Monica, CA - Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.