cover image The Christmas Coat

The Christmas Coat

Clyde Robert Bulla. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $13.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-394-89385-3

Brothers Hans and Otto aren't about to stop fighting just because Christmas is right around the corner. At home after school, the two bicker constantly while waiting for their mother to return from work. Weary and disappointed in her sons, she finally draws a chalk line down the middle of the room to keep them apart. One day, the brothers are mystified to find a large gift box on the table, as their mother has explained she cannot afford to buy presents this year. When Hans opens the box, Otto crosses the line to peek inside. The box contains a beautiful red coat, which the quarrelsome brothers soon rip. When they learn that their mother is merely storing the coat for a neighbor, Hans and Otto are abashed. For once in their lives, they put their heads--rather than their fists--together, and secretly pool their savings and pay the tailor to fix the coat. By not fighting for two whole days, they give their mother the best present possible. Wickstrom's pictures, with their soft colors and old-world quality, impart an elegant look to Bulla's story. This book deserves to be read year-round. Ages 7-9. (Sept.)