Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. THE CHRISTMAS COAT: MEMORIES OF MY SIOUX CHILDHOOD. Ill. by Ellen Beier. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 9780823421343 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]
Based on memories from the author’s life on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, this picture book portrays the spirit of the Christmas season that transcends culture. The story tells of Virginia, an Episcopal priest’s daughter, and her wish for a new coat. When the boxes from the East arrive, her family must offer the clothing to the others first. Another girl in need chooses the coat Virginia hoped to receive. After receiving gifts from Santa and celebrating with traditional food, and just before heading to church, her mother opens a box marked for the priest’s family. In it is a coat that just fits Virginia.
Watercolor and gouache art fills the spreads that suggest the chill of a South Dakota winter and portray the Native American characters in a realistic manner. The emotions Virginia experiences are rendered beautifully on her face and the Wise Men appear as Tribal Leaders in traditional headdress.
This book takes a universal story and sets it against another culture without making the culture the central theme. Without preaching or overt religious references, this Christmas book shows the season of joy and giving for all peoples and beliefs.
Collect books about Christmas in other cultures. Have groups of children create a mural depicting the different ways people celebrate Christmas in other cultures.
Other books for children about Christmas in other cultures:
Kimmel, Eric A., and Katya Krenina. THE SPIDER’S GIFT: A UKRAINIAN CHRISTMAS STORY. ISBN 9780823417438
Langstaff, John, and Ashley Bryan. WHAT A MORNING!: THE CHRISTMAS STORY IN BLACK SPIRITUALS. ISBN 9780689808074
By Shirley Duke