Tag: reuse

Review: My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth

my grandfathers coat

My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Based on a Yiddish folksong, this picture book celebrates the thrift, hard work and skills of immigrants to the United States.  Told in the first person by the grandchild, this book looks at one man who came to the US and worked hard as a tailor.  He met a woman and they got married and he made his own coat for the wedding.  He wore it everywhere until finally, it was worn it.  So then what did he do?  He made it into a jacket.  He wore that everywhere and eventually wore it out too.  So then he made it into a vest.  He then wore that until it was frayed.  The book progresses through a necktie and finally a stuffed mouse made from the last of the old fabric and even when that is eventually torn apart, a mouse finds it to be perfect for her nest. 

Aylesworth uses a repeating structure throughout this book, first introducing his character of the grandfather and then having him make a garment, wear it out, make another, and start the cycle again.  He uses just the right amount of rhythm and rhyme to hold the story together, making the repetition clear and rollicking.  It reads like a folk tale, filled with a celebration of one man and his skills at reusing things.

McClintock’s illustrations suit this subject matter perfectly.  Her artwork’s vintage feel is right at home here, creating repeating tableaus on the page that reflect the changing time as children grow up and also the process and time of recreating garments from the scraps.  Her art shows the loving family, the shrinking deep blue fabric, and the passage of time.

This story of reuse and recycling takes that modern movement and translates it directly into the frugality of our American ancestors.  Cleverly written, striking illustrated and a great read aloud, this book is appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.

Review: The Patchwork Torah by Allison Ofanansky

patchwork torah

The Patchwork Torah by Allison Ofanansky, illustrated by Elsa Oriol

David’s grandfather was a scribe.   He had been asked by the rabbi to write a new Torah for their synagogue because the old one was fading.  David watched his grandfather work for a year on the new Torah and then store it away, explaining that a Torah is not something to be thrown out.  Years later, as David was learning to be a scribe from his grandfather, a couple came to them bringing a Torah that they had hidden from the Nazis.  It was badly water damaged and his grandfather tucked that Torah away too in the hopes of working on it someday.  David grew up to be a scribe and inherited his grandfather’s cabinet with the two scrolls inside.  One day, the rabbi called and told him that there had been a fire in the synagogue and the Torah was damaged.  That scroll too was put away.  Finally, Katrina hit New Orleans and a Torah was rescued but damaged too.  David suddenly had an idea and worked for months to take the four scrolls and patch them together into one complete Torah that would be unlike any other.

Ofanansky builds this story slowly and steadily.  Each Torah comes into the book with a full story and history.  Each is unique and ruined in some way, but worthy of being rescued and reused.  It is the ultimate in recycling.  The book also pays homage to the long history of scribes who care for and create Torah, showing the dedication that it takes to learn the art and skill. 

The art by Oriol has a quiet nature too.  The paintings are suffused in yellow light and warmth.  Even the days of the tragedies that happen to the people and the Torah are light-filled and hope filled. 

A quiet and powerful story about renewal and reuse, this book speaks across religions to the importance of hard work and resilience.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.