Woodruff, Elvira. The Memory Coat. Illustrated by Michael Dooling. Scholastic, 1998. ISBN 0-590-67717-9. $15.95. 32 pp. A 3-5 PB Reviewed by Carla Morris How can a tattered old coat keep a family together? Author Elvira Woodruff visited the Ellis Island clothing exhibit, where a child’s woolen jacket, patched at the elbows and frayed at the collar, inspired her to write this story. At Ellis, immigrants were inspected to see that they were healthy and capable to enter the United States. Their names, nationalities, and destinations were recorded by inspectors. They were given a quick physical examination that would determine if they could receive their landing card and live in America, or be separated from their family and be sent back. If they did not pass the physical, the doctor would use chalk to mark the back of their coat. They would be detained and deported. This devastating experience was the immigrant’s greatest fear. The Memory Coat tells the story of two cousins who lived in a Russian shtetl with their family. Grisha has recently been orphaned because of an epidemic that killed both of his parents. His mother made him a coat before she died. The coat is tattered, but it is Grisha’s last connection to his mother’s love. During the ocean voyage, Grisha falls and scratches his eye. At Ellis Island, the inspector sees his reddened eye as an infection and marks a large yellow E on Grisha’s coat. Grisha’s uncle pleads with the inspector and explains that it is only a recent injury, but the inspector does not understand Russian. In despair, the children are sent to sit on a bench and wait. Why can’t Grisha go with them? Is it because of his ragged coat? Suddenly, Rachel, Grisha’s cousin, has an idea. She turns the coat inside out, exposing the beautiful wool from his mother’s coat. Grisha’s uncle takes him to another line, where the doctor is kinder and more patient and understands Russian. The family receive landing passes and, most important, they are together. A great read-aloud with author and historical notes on the last page that can lead to further study and discussion.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.
The information available on this site, including any text, computer codes, data, artwork, video, audio, images or graphics (collectively the "Material") are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Parties other than Brigham Young University ("BYU") may own copyright in the Material. We encourage the use of this Material for non-profit and educational purposes only, such as personal research, teaching and private study. For these limited purposes, Material from this web site may be displayed and printed, and all copies must include any copyright notice originally included with the Material. Additionally, a credit line must be included with each item used, citing the article or review author, title or article or review, title of the database, sponsoring agency, date of your access to the electronic file, and the electronic address.