Cover image for The memory coat
The memory coat
Woodruff, Elvira.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic, 1999.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 cm
In the early 1900s, two cousins leave their Russian shtetl with the rest of their family to come to America, hopeful that they will all pass the dreaded inspection at Ellis Island.
Reading Level:
AD 650 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.8 0.5 46333.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.7 2 Quiz: 19647 Guided reading level: O.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Fleeing from Russia to America, Rachel and her family want to make a good impression at the inspection station at Ellis Island. Any wrong move there could cause one or all of them to be turned away. When an inspector singles out young cousin Grisha, wearing the tattered old coat his mother gave him, the family fears they will be separated forever. But Rachel's cleverness and a coat that's filled with memories ultimately keep them together. Full color.

Author Notes

The bestselling author of GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SOCKS and THE RAVENMASTER'S SECRET, Woodruff has written more than twenty books for children, including picture books, historical fiction, and lighthearted fantasy. Her numerous school visits each year are popular with kids and teachers. The sequel to GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SOCKS, GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SPY, will be published in November 2010. She lives with her family in Martin's Creek, Pennsylvania.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-9. An upbeat Jewish immigration story begins in the Russian shtetl and ends with an extended family coming to America to escape persecution. The warm, realistic period paintings, some in color, some in sepia shades, focus on young Rachel and her bond with her cousin Grisha, who has lost his parents in an epidemic and comes to live in her house. When the raids of the Cossacks drive the family to leave for America, Grandmother Bubba tries to get Grisha to leave his tattered coat: how will he pass the dreaded inspections at Ellis Island? If he looks too weak, the doctors might send him back to Russia. But the boy refuses to part with the coat because it is lined with the wool from his mother's coat, stitched by her for him before she died. When they get to Ellis Island, Grisha scratches his eye in a fall, and the doctor marks his coat with an "E." The family is frantic that he will be sent back to Russia, until Rachel has an idea: she turns the coat inside out, and Grisha gets through. In a long, interesting author's note, Woodruff discusses the shtetl and immigrant history, and also the true account she found in the Ellis Island museum of a child who got through the dreaded inspections after her family turned her coat inside out. --Hazel RochmanReference Books Bulletin

Publisher's Weekly Review

An immigrant boy's tattered woolen coat helps secure his entrance to America in this thoughtful picture book. Grisha, whose parents have died, now lives with his cousin Rachel's boisterous family in a Russian shtetl. Grisha misses his parents terribly, though he finds comfort in playing storytelling games with Rachel ("they were the best of friends") and in wearing the now-ragged coat sewn by his mother. But after cossacks terrorize the Jews of the shtetl, Rachel's family flees to America. At Ellis Island an inspector notes a scratch on Grisha's eye and marks his coat, indicating that he is rejected. Luckily, quick-thinking Rachel turns Grisha's coat inside out, allowing him to pass with the rest of the family. Woodruff (The Orphan of Ellis Island) steeps her tale in history, and at times the abundance of scene-setting detail bogs down the story's pacing. Dooling's (Mary McLean and the St. Patrick's Day Parade) evocative oil paintings range from low-contrast two-color portraits to full-color scenes; many exude great warmth. A black-and-white spread depicting a huddled band of people, with anxious, strained faces, is particularly memorable. Endnotes supply facts about the plight of Russian Jews in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the mechanics of immigration and the role of Ellis Island. Ages 7-10. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-A moving story of a family emigrating to the United States from Russia at the turn of the century. To while away the days in their small village, or shtetl, Rachel makes up stories and her orphaned cousin draws pictures in the dirt or snow to illustrate them. Although Rachel's mother offers to make Grisha a new coat, the boy clings to his threadbare jacket because it reminds him of his mother. When Russian soldiers come to round up the Jews, the family is forced to flee and makes the long, arduous journey to America. Grisha is nearly turned away by immigration authorities at Ellis Island because of a cut on his eye. Rachel saves the situation when she turns his shabby coat inside out to hide the doctor's chalk mark. Realistic yet impressionistic oil paintings in subdued tones evoke scenes from village and farm life in the old country, while sepia-toned illustrations depict the hardships of the voyage and the grimness of the customs inspection. A touching story of immigration and the resiliency of those who underwent the transition, told with the fondness of a cherished memory.-Sally R. Dow, Ossining Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.