Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton and illustrated by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

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In this ten-page picture book, Dolly describes her childhood, and how one day when she was young, someone gave her family a “box of rags” which her mama “put to use.” She describes her mom sewing the pieces of material together to make a coat for her, and how she told her about Joseph’s “coat of many colors” story from the Bible.

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Dolly talks about her happy memories wearing the coat of many colors, and how although her family was poor, wearing her coat made her “as rich as [she] could be.” Dolly recalls how kids at school made fun of her coat, which she couldn’t understand because it made her feel rich.

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The book ends with an illustration of Dolly and her family happily playing in the family living room, and the child muses that to be “rich” had much more to do with company and joy than with anything money can buy.

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The simple, watercolor-like illustrations in the book match the theme and early-childhood level content of the story well. Most pages had at most four lines of words, and the phrases often rhymed, making this an ideal book for younger children who may be able to understand the story better in this lyrical way. The book was simple and short, with a sweet message: happiness cannot be bought and one is rich when one has love. I personally think, though, that the story could have still been a little more nuanced; I think that the part when Dolly was bullied was glossed over — there didn’t seem to be any sort of resolution of the conflict as she just ignored them and went on.

While this book does not carry complex themes, it is a story to read to kids who are below kindergarten age, and brings a heartwarming message that kids of all backgrounds can relate to.

— Abby Wei

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