Mills, Lauren A. Minna's Patchwork Coat
November 3rd 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ARC from Kidlitcon
Minna's family is struggling to make ends meet in early 1900s Appalachia. Her father is suffering from black lung disease, so her mother sells patchwork quilts to keep the family fed. Minna is not able to go to school because she lacks proper clothing, although her mother has taught her to read. She watches her younger brother and is learning about herbal treatments from the local wise woman, Aunt Nora, who is part Cherokee. Aunt Nora's grandson, Lester, is not allowed to go to the school, so Minna teaches him what she knows. When Minna's father dies, things get even worse, but the community rallies around and the group of quilters makes a coat for Minna to wear to school. The mean girls make fun of her, but she knows the love that went into the coat and wears it proudly.
Strengths: This had a very Little House on the Prarie fell to it-- triumphing against adversity, doing what must be done, etc. Good descriptions of daily life in Appalachia, with an emphasis on racial tolerance.
Weaknesses: This was rather didactic and slow moving, since this is an elaboration of a picture book. There are a few mentions of Cherokee culture, and I don't know enough to know whether or not they are accurate.
What I really think: When I was a child, I would have adored this book on so many levels. I loved history, I loved sewing, and the moral tales of L.M.Montgomery and Alcott were some of my favorites. That said, my students today don't like ANY of those things, so it would make no sense for me to buy it. Elementary students might like this gentle tale more than middle school students would.