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A New Coat for Anna


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About the Author

Harriet Ziefert is the author of hundreds of children's books and the publisher of Blue Apple Books in Maplewood, New Jersey. Her books include the bestelling Sleepy Dog in the Step Into Reading series and the acclaimed A New Coat for Anna, a story of the devotion between a mother and daughter during hard times after World War II.


PreS-Gr 2 In the tradition of Beskow's Pelle's New Suit (Harper, 1929), Ziefert tells the story of Anna's new coat. In contrast to the warmth of Pelle's Swedish mountain village is the war-torn town in post-World War II Eastern Europe in which Anna and her mother live. While Pelle trades chores for the making of his suit, Anna's mother trades treasured possessions from better daysa gold watch, a teapot, a lamp, and a necklace. Ziefert's writing is clear and succinct, but it is in Lobel's brightly colored paintings that the story truly unfolds. From crumbling rooms cluttered with mementos of a better life to the charm of the tiny sheep farm, the illustrations bring to life another time, another place, and a little girl whose delight in her new coat is just as great as that of many a young reader of this book. The expressiveness of the faces in Lobel's paintings brings life to the story. Ziefert's tale, based on a true story, carries a simple lesson that will be understood and cherished by all ages. Susan Scheps, Bertram Woods Library, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Ziefert and Lobel have spun a story of hope and revitalization that takes place just after the end of World War II. When winter comes, Anna's blue fuzzy coat is worn-out and too small. Her mother thought, last winter, that shops would be open by now and that she would have money to buy nice things again. Instead, she and Anna pore over their last possessions of any value. Then they begin an elaborate plan of swapping to get Anna her new coat. First, they take Grandfather's gold watch to a nearby farm. The farmer agrees to give them wool from his sheep in return for the watch, but they must wait until spring, when he shears them. To an old woman with a spinning wheel Anna's mother offers a lamp. It will be summer before the wool will be finished. At the end of the summer, Anna and her mother pick lingonberries, make a pot of dye and ``soon red yarn was hanging up to dry on a clothesline strung across the kitchen.'' A weaver receives a garnet necklace for turning the yarn into a bolt of cloth; the tailor accepts a porcelain teapot for his work. It's winter again, so Anna wears her new coat home. Because Christmas is coming, they decide to have a little celebration, for all the people who helped with a coat. ``And I will make a Christmas cake just like I used to,'' Anna's mother says. Not only is this a highly instructive guide to clothes-making, but it's also a thoughtful chronicle of recovery, economic and personal, from the devastation of hard times. Lobel's resplendent pictures convey the passing of the seasons, cozily cluttered interiors and the compassion of the people working on Anna's coat. The story could be considered conventional, were it not for the inspiring atmosphere evoked in both words and illustrations. A New Coat is one of the brightest offerings of the year. (4-8)

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