Minna’s Patchwork Coat
by Lauren A. Mills
8-year-old Minna lives with her family in a rustic cabin in the Appalachian Mountains during the beginning of the 20th century. Life is difficult. Her father works in the coal mines where he has contracted the deadly black lung disease and is forced to miss work more and more often. The family is extremely poor. Too poor, in fact, to afford a coat for Minna. Without a coat, Minna must remain at home during the harsh winter months. No coat means no school – her greatest wish. Minna knows how to read and write thanks to her mother who has taught her at home but Minna desperately wishes that she could go to school and make friends with the other mountain children.
Sadly, Minna’s beloved father finally dies from his disease and her mother must make ends meet by joining the local Quilting Moms who sell their quilts to city people to bring in an income. When the mothers discover Minna’s coat dilemma, they offer to make her a coat from the scraps of material that are part of their family’s life. Each scrap has a story behind it – stories of the children that Minna hopes will eventually be her friends. Can the children see beyond the rags to the girl inside who is offering them her friendship?
The author has based this middle grade chapter book upon her 1990 picture book The Rag Coat and in so doing has expanded Minna’s story and built it upon her own childhood memories of summers spent with her grandparents in West Virginia. In addition, Mills has complemented Minna’s tale with exquisitely drawn pencil sketches that skillfully bring the setting and characters to life.
Recommended for grades 4 – 6.
Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)