A Mother’s Plan: A Review of ‘A New Coat for Anna’

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” ― St. Catherine of Siena

Reading Level:

Grades K-1 [according to common core]

Grade   3.1 [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Interest Level: Grades 3-5

Review and Comments:

I looked forward to reading this historical fiction, my favorite genre, and wasn’t disappointed as the story and illustrations drew me in from the first page.  This very touching account is based on a real life story of a little girl and her mother soon after WWII when life continued to be very difficult.  Supplies and food were limited and no one had any money. The fact that Anna needed a new winter coat presented quite a dilemma for her mother.

Mother considered all her options and finally came up with an intricate plan that demonstrated her sacrificial love as a mother. She decided to barter a few special items she owned for the material and services she needed for Anna’s new coat.  She used her grandfather’s gold watch, a beautiful lamp, a garnet necklace, and a porcelain teapot in exchange for the necessities she required.  There were many people involved in Mother’s plan from a farmer to a tailor, and everyone did their finest work.  Anna and her mother had to be especially patient because it took many months to complete all the steps in the process.  In the end her coat was perfect!

a new coat for anna 1

As a final thank you Anna and her mother invited all the people who helped make her new coat to a Christmas party.  It was the best Christmas party they had had in a very long time.

There is quite a broad reading range for this book.  I feel the more experienced reader will thoroughly appreciate the entire story while younger children will enjoy it as a read aloud book.  All readers and listeners will be drawn into the story because the illustrations offer so many layers to examine.  At the beginning of the story the colors are subdued.  Later, when the apples Anna feeds the sheep and the red dye and yarn appear, red becomes the focus of the remaining pictures.

The story itself is quite a fascinating lesson of the time that shows all the steps it took to make a coat and all the people who were involved.  I feel the uplifting story of Mother’s resourcefulness, the patience Anna and her mother demonstrated, and their gratitude toward the people who helped them is truly an inspiring model for young readers

a new coat for anna 2

Possible Concerns:

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion:

  • A time frame for World War II and the life after the war will help the reader appreciate the story.
  • As with many historical fiction stories children may ask if this story is real because it does mirror life after WWII so well. This is an opportunity to “compare the past with the present in order to better understand the world.”
  • Draw a picture of Anna in her new coat.  Use red felt to make her coat. This picture could be used in the final frame of a flow chart.
  • Make a simple flow chart showing the steps taken in making Anna’s coat. [Farmer and sheep, Spinner, dying the yarn, Weaver, Tailor]
  • Mother demonstrated her love for Anna by sacrificing her possessions in order to provide her daughter with a new winter coat.  Discuss how Anna showed her love for her mother by patiently waiting for the process to be completed, helping her mother along the way, and joyfully showing her gratitude.

Catholic Resources:

Luke 11:11-13  What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Saint Boniface is the patron saint of Germany and tailors. “Saint Boniface, you faced discouragement and failure and learned from them. Help us to hear God’s message in our moments of failure and to use what we learn to serve God better. Amen” 

St. Isidore the Farmer is the patron saint of farmers. “God, through the intercession of St. Isidore, the holy farmer, grant that we may overcome all feelings of pride. May we always serve You with that humility which pleases You, through his merits and example.”

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