Hand-me-downs can be a dreaded necessity or longed-for acquisition. I remember being crestfallen when a neighbor passed down her daughter’s no-longer-fashionable clothes. How could my mother possibly think I would wear such things in public?! Yet my own children happily select items from the resale shops we frequent to save money and reduce our carbon footprint. They also enjoy donating their outgrown clothing, although sometimes they sentimentally hang on to a favorite item.
Elise, the star of The Coat, has been waiting a long time for her big sister to outgrow the red coat of Elise’s dreams. Finally, the day comes when Mia passes the coat on. But things don’t work out quite as Elise imagined. Author Séverine Vidal throws an unexpected twist into the story that challenges children to think about feelings and how they can change with circumstances.
As you read this book together, invite children three and older to explore the story with one or more of these activities:
Anticipation. Elise dreams about having the coat and struggles to be patient until it is her turn to wear it. Ask children: What is something in the future that you are excited about? Then ask them to describe what they are doing to count down the time until this anticipated thing happens. Do they tell themselves something over and over or pester their family, like Elise?
Gratitude. Elise giggles, sings, and shouts her thankfulness when the coat finally becomes hers. Invite children to pantomime their own ways of showing gratitude. Will they do a happy dance? Offer a hug? Write a thank you message? Give a gift in return?
Anxiety. Once she has the coat, Elise worries that something might happen to it. Play a ‘What if?” game with children. Work together to create a list of potentially bad things that could happen to Elise’s coat, using the prompt “What if…?. Then, using the same prompt, make a list of potentially good things that could happen. Ask: Which things do you think are more likely to happen? Why?
Concern. Elise is upset when she sees the woman and child shivering in the cold. She tries unsuccessfully to forget about them. Invite children to draw pictures of upsetting things they have seen. Encourage them to include themselves in the drawing with an upset expression on their face.
Compassion. Elise stops to share her candy and ends up sharing much more. Imagine together what Elise might say to the woman and girl as she gives them her coat, hat, and scarf. Imagine how they might react to her show of compassion.
Empathy. When Elise tries to walk past the woman and child without looking, she shivers. After she decides to give away her coat, she feels warm inside. Ask: When have you done something to help others? What prompted you to take action? Discuss what else you could do to help someone in need and then act together on at least one of your ideas.