PATTERNING Prevails in “My Grandfather’s Coat”

Title: My Grandfather’s Coat

Author: Jim Aylesworth

Illustrator: Barbara McClintock

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Year: 2014

Word Count: 614

My Grandfather’s Coat is based on the old Yiddish folksong, “I Had a Little Overcoat.” The song was later turned into a story called  “The Tailor” which I first heard told by Judy Sima during a youth storytelling workshop at the National Storytelling Network Conference in Cincinnati a few years ago. Jim Aylesworth’s adapation accompanied by Barbara McClintock’s illustrations make for a beautiful rendition of the famous tale that follows one overcoat and one family through the generations.

The book makes great use of repetition and patterning right from the beginning, as the narrator, the title character’s grand-daughter, describes what happens after her Grandfather and Grandmother got engaged.

. . . my grandfather went right to work.

He snipped, and he clipped,

and he stitched, and he sewed,

and he made for himself a handsome coat. . .

that he wore on his wedding day.


My grandfather loved the coat, and he wore it, and he wore it.

And little bit by little bit, he frayed it, and he tore it,

until at last. . . he wore it out!


Once the coat is worn out, the pattern begins again — with grandfather getting to work to turn the remaining good fabric into a jacket. The jacket then becomes a vest, a tie, and lastly, a toy for his great grandson — with the pattern repeating each time. The beautiful part of the book is seeing how Grandfather changes over the years, how his family grows and how he wears each new item at different stages of his life and in the life of his family. The patterning used definitely serves to heighten the sentimental quality of the story and is sure to delight young readers who will be able to join in with the repetitive refrain.

What are your favorite stories with a repetitive refrain?

7 Responses to “PATTERNING Prevails in “My Grandfather’s Coat””

  1. Damon Dean

    One of my favorites. Besides the subtle theme on recycling, the patterns are fun, and demonstrate a ‘faithfulness’ in Grandfather’s actions that endear the reader to him.

  2. Juliana Lee

    This is driving me crazy! This story reminds me of one I read years ago and I cannot for the life of me remember the title. The words ‘just enough’ keep coming to mind, but I’ve looked that up on Goodreads and can’t find the one I’m thinking of. The story is similar, the coat becomes a vest, and eventually a button. Wish I could remember it, because now it’s stuck in my head. I can picture everything on the cover except the title! Akkkkk! Anyway, great review, and thanks for the memory… or at least the partial memory! 🙂


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