Title: The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood
Author: Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
Illustrator: Ellen Beier
Publisher: Holiday House
Concepts: wants and needs; altruism
Review: This memoir of Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s childhood on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota tells the story of one special Christmas. Virginia needs a new winter coat because her old one is much too small. Each year “Theast” (the East) boxes of clothes and shoes arrive from churches in New England. She hopes that they will contain a new coat for her. Although she truly needs a coat, Virginia and her brother are the last children to receive items from the Theast boxes because their father is the Episcopal minister and they have to put the wants and needs of others ahead of their own.
In the boxes there is an elegant grey fur coat that Virginia really wants. However, since another child chooses that coat, Virginia has to settle for a serviceable brown one that needs to be altered for her. A twist of the story means that Virginia has to give up that coat, too. Then, on Christmas Eve, she and her brother receive two special boxes sent especially for the minister’s children. These contain not only a beautiful coat for Virginia, but also the cowboy boots her brother wants.
Ellen Bieir’s charming and sensitive illustrations in watercolor and gouache help tell Virginia’s story and reflect the research she did about the Sioux and life on their reservation.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children