✰✰✰ Growing up on a South Dakota reservation wasn't easy, but twice a year the children eagerly awaited the arrival of the Theast boxes. Theast boxes were packages of donations from "The East;" the boxes contained much needed clothing for the community. Virginia, the daughter of an Episcopalian priest, desperately hopes that one of the boxes will contain a coat just her size as the one she received last year has become too short and tight.
When the boxes arrive, Virginia spots a coat that would be just perfect; however, all the other families get to choose first. By the time everyone else has chosen clothing, the coat is gone. The congregation moves forward with preparations for Christmas, but Virginia's heart just isn't in it. Then just before heading off to Christmas Eve services, Virginia's mother pulls out two more boxes - one for Virginia and one for her brother. To their surprise, both contain unexpected Christmas joy.
The Bottom Line: This picture book biography is based on an event in the author's childhood. It's a touching story of learning to put the needs of others before one's own; however, it might have been more compelling if told in the first person rather than the third person. Beier's watercolor and gouache illustrations are realistic and nicely done. The story is a bit long for the little ones; thus it's recommended for older kids in Grades 3 - 5.
Details: The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and illustrated by Ellen Beier. Hardcover picture book published by Holiday House in 2011. Unpaged. ISBN: 978-0-8234-2134-3