The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood

Summary: The Christmas Coat by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve is the story about a young Sioux girl named Virginia, who is about to go through a cold South Dakota winter. All she wants is a nice warm coat to get her through the cold. When the East sends Virginia and her community a box of clothes, Virginia sees an amazing grey coat that she just had to have. But one of her classmates beats her to it! Virginia is not very happy about not getting the coat, but on Christmas day, her Mama brings a surprise box with a coat just for Virginia!

Cultural Markers: This is a childhood story of Author Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. Her father was a Episcopal priest and her mother a Lakota Sioux. Her background makes this book culturally authentic. This whole book is about family values and we even see some of the Sioux peoples culture. Towards the end of the book, they are celebrating Christmas at the church. We see a Native American inspired version of the Christmas Nativity Pageant. The cultural touch we see in the play is when the wise men come in, they are wearing headresses and other traditional Native American wear. This mirrors traditional Native American culture because as the text says”They wore headdresses that only the wise leaders and elders of the tribe could wear.” This books setting and theme are Christmas related, so we see some Christian values put into place. We see this when the box from the East comes and Virginia must wait her turn to choose something because like her mother says, “They need it more than we do.”Illustrator Ellen Beier certainly did her job to make Virginias story come to life. She accurately portrays the color and the culture of the Sioux  people without giving in to stereotypes.

Personal Reflection: This book has a mix of two cultures and traditions. We have the Sioux people living in a Christian society. Though you would not expect it, it actually works well together to create this amazing book with a theme that young children will appreciate. What makes it even better, is that since this is a story of a young Sioux girl, we can see that there are no stereotypes when it comes to a “primitive” nature or that they only live in tepees or speak backwards. For these reasons, I feel that this book is a must have for any school to further teach us of the Sioux people.


American Indian Youth Literature Award, 2006-2016 (Winner, 2012)

American Indian Library Association Best Children’s Book of 2011

Smithsonian Magazine Best Children’s Book, 2011

Great Books to Give Your Little Ones,” NPR, December 21, 2011

Review Excerpts:

****Starred review Kirkus Reviews 9/1/11****
“Virginia’s personality shines through in this poignant story that entertains and informs without recourse to stereotypes. (Picture book. 5-9)”
**** Smithsonian Magazine’s Best Children’s Books 2011
“The author recalls a childhood when an act of simple kindness ultimately became its own reward.” – Smithsonian Magazine, ages 4-7 award winners


Similar Books:

Lesson Plans:
Sneve, V. D., & Beier, E. (2011). The Christmas coat: Memories of my Sioux childhood. New York: Holiday House. ISBN: 0823421341


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