A patchwork coat created from a box of donated rags is a deeply felt memory from the author’s childhood.
The incident evidently had a profound effect, as it led to a song, written in 1971, and a TV movie in 2015. Here, the text is made up entirely of the song’s lyrics. Parton recalls when she had “patches on her britches” and no warm coat. Her mother lovingly creates a patchwork coat while retelling the Bible story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. The little blonde, white girl gratefully and proudly heads off for school, where she is met with jeers and derision. She tries to explain the love and sense of richness she feels, to no avail. Boynton-Hughes’ brightly hued pen-and-ink–and-watercolor illustrations follow the action carefully but are a bit too pretty to convey poverty. The home seems warm and comfortable if old-fashioned, and the other children in the family don’t have patched clothing. There are brown-skinned and white schoolchildren all taking part in the event; this may appeal to modern readers, but it doesn't ring true for early-1950s rural Tennessee, where school segregation was statutory. In an author’s note Parton exhorts young readers, bullies and victims alike, to have understanding hearts and find comfort in knowing that hurts can heal.
Tender and heartfelt with a loving message—if a little sanitized. (Picture book. 4-8)