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Jim Aylesworth
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My Grandfather's Coat 
Retold by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Scholastic, 2014)

My Grandfather's Coat

My Grandfather's Coat

Jim Aylesworth, illus. by Barbara McClintock (Scholastic Press)

This warmly told and splendidly illustrated tale of a coat repurposed and refashioned over decades of use celebrates the determination, resourcefulness, and ingenuity that are bedrock values for so many immigrant families. Here's hoping copies of this book become as well worn as Grandfather's blue coat itself.~Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014 List

My Grandfather's Coat has been published in Korea and in Japan.

Korean-cover Japanese-cover

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Starred ReviewStarred ReviewStarred Review
My Grandfather's Coat honored with three starred reviews from notable review sources.  
Starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal.


When my grandfather came to America
he made himself a handsome coat!
Then he wore it and he wore it and he wore it --
until it was all worn out!
So what did he do?

He snipped and he clipped--
and he stitched and he sewed...
and out of the still-good cloth of his coat --
he made himself a smart jacket!

How many things can Grandfather make out of that old frayed coat? Through four generations the cloth of the coat is reused and new items are created.

Featured in New York Times Book Review - Here's what author/illustrator Paul O Zelinsky had to say about the book. " ... (here's the double payoff) is "My Grandfather's Coat," a text adapted by Jim Aylesworth from a traditional Yiddish song, and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. The original verses give a first-person account of material disappearance: I had a little overcoat; it was so worn out I made it into a vest. Then a tie. Then a button. Then nothing. I had nothing, and I made it into a song.... Read the full review

What  Others Have to Say about My Grandfather's Coat

Starred reviewStarred Review —Aylesworth's story, told in the voice of the main character's granddaughter, recounts highlights of her grandfather's life: coming to America, becoming a tailor, and making himself "a handsome coat…that he wore on his wedding day!" The worn coat becomes "a smart jacket"; the shabby jacket, "a snazzy vest"; the frayed vest, "a stylish tie." In this version, the threadbare tie is transformed into a toy for a great grandson's kittens, then a cozy nest for a mouse and her babies. As in both older versions, this one features repetition and a rhyming refrain.... This is a tale worth reading again and again.-- School Library Journal

Starred ReviewStarred Review —Aylesworth repeats the snipping-and-clipping, stitching-and-sewing formula, with the grandfather altering his coat into "a smart jacket," "a snazzy vest," and finally "a stylish tie that he wore on my mother's wedding day!" Warmth emanates from this thoughtful book, which deserves to become a multigenerational family favorite. -- Publishers Weekly

Starred ReviewStarred Review -- Aylesworth takes an old Yiddish folk song and tale and, just like the tailor, brings it to fresh, new life. Two sprightly snatches of singsong repetition accompany the deterioration of each of the garments and the stitching of the new one. "He wore it, and he wore it.…[H]e frayed it, and he tore it" is followed by "he snipped, and he clipped, and he stitched, and he sewed." Each incarnation comes after years of hard work and rites of passage, only a few of which are stated in the text. McClintock's depictions of the tailor through his lifetime, rendered in pen, ink and watercolor, are detailed evocations of a warm, loving family. The narrative and illustrations make a perfect whole. Sweet and tender and joyful. (author's note, illustrator's note) -- Kirkus Reviews

Named to the CCBC Choices 2015 Books -- CCBC Choices is a best-of-the-year list created annually by the librarians of the Cooperative Children's Book Center and published by the Friends of the CCBC, Inc. CCBC Choices 2015 is a fully annotated listing of 259 books published in 2014 for birth through high school and recommended by the CCBC professional staff. Download the 2015 list (PDF).

A review on Sandar Bornstein's blog: Multicultural Picture Book - Yiddish Folksong. (13 February 2015).

This is a retelling of a story based on the Yiddish folksong "I Had A Little Overcoat." It is a sweet story spanning the generations. The beloved coat transforms from coat to jacket to vest to tie to toy to material for a mouse's nest, to nothing but a story. It's a family-oriented story which makes it a gem in my opinion. --Becky's Book Reviews

This story of reuse and recycling takes that modern movement and translates it directly into the frugality of our American ancestors.  Cleverly written, striking illustrated and a great read aloud -- Waking Brain Cells by Tasha Saecker. Read the complete review.

Here, author and illustrator make the story their own. It's a pleasing new adaptation of a treasured story...In a closing author's note, Aylesworth acknowledges the hard work of immigrants and the process of building new things from "what you have that [is] still good." In an illustrator's note, McClintock writes about her own family's roots and her decision to set the book in northeastern Connecticut, where she now lives. -- BookPage® Review by Julie Danielson. Read the complete review.

Why we like it: This is very lovable retelling of the Yiddish story, "I Had A Little Overcoat." Readers will take comfort in the patterned text and will be supported by the illustrations. This book would also be great for learning about immigration and about re-using materials. -- NAPPAawards.com. Read the complete review.

"My Grandfather's Coat" is a wonderful retelling of the story about immigrants who came to America and used their skill and knowledge to be thrifty and wise. Aylesworth's simple retelling is perfectly complemented by McClintock's happy illustrations. -- Book Examiner (Pamela Kramer) Read the full review.

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. Literary Kids by Litereary Features Syndicate (Barbara Basbanes Richter, editor). Read the full review

With his first two sentences Jim Aylesworth gives readers his first small variation on the original, a single word bringing us full circle. We begin with nothing.  Between each of the alterations, uses for the cloth, his word choices further tie the changes together as well as give a cadence to the story. -- Librarian's Quest (blog). Read the full review.

Illustrations from the My Grandfather's Coat featured at The Scholastic Story Corner.

An amusing story retold from a Yiddish folk song and universalized to apply to the immigrant experience in general, My Grandfather's Coat is all about thrift, adjustment, generational communication, and the importance of family....(and the story ends with) a lovely final picture and a wonderfully warm concluding sentiment for a narrative that emphasizes how little is lost when families create their own traditions and maintain them through the years, wherever life may take them. -- INFODAD.com: Family-Focused Reviews. Read the full review.

Classroom Connections

Aylesworth, Jim. My Grandfather's Coat. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Scholastic, 2014 32 pages. ISBN-10: 0439925452; ISBN-13: 978-0439925457.
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