cover image New Coat for Anna

New Coat for Anna

Harriet Ziefert. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $11.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-394-87426-5

Ziefert and Lobel have spun a story of hope and revitalization that takes place just after the end of World War II. When winter comes, Anna's blue fuzzy coat is worn-out and too small. Her mother thought, last winter, that shops would be open by now and that she would have money to buy nice things again. Instead, she and Anna pore over their last possessions of any value. Then they begin an elaborate plan of swapping to get Anna her new coat. First, they take Grandfather's gold watch to a nearby farm. The farmer agrees to give them wool from his sheep in return for the watch, but they must wait until spring, when he shears them. To an old woman with a spinning wheel Anna's mother offers a lamp. It will be summer before the wool will be finished. At the end of the summer, Anna and her mother pick lingonberries, make a pot of dye and ""soon red yarn was hanging up to dry on a clothesline strung across the kitchen.'' A weaver receives a garnet necklace for turning the yarn into a bolt of cloth; the tailor accepts a porcelain teapot for his work. It's winter again, so Anna wears her new coat home. Because Christmas is coming, they decide to have a little celebration, for all the people who helped with a coat. ``And I will make a Christmas cake just like I used to,'' Anna's mother says. Not only is this a highly instructive guide to clothes-making, but it's also a thoughtful chronicle of recovery, economic and personal, from the devastation of hard times. Lobel's resplendent pictures convey the passing of the seasons, cozily cluttered interiors and the compassion of the people working on Anna's coat. The story could be considered conventional, were it not for the inspiring atmosphere evoked in both words and illustrations. A New Coat is one of the brightest offerings of the year. (4-8)