Book Review: Clancy’s Coat

Rating: ★★★★★

Tippitt the tailor and his friend Clancy have been angry at each other since Tippitt’s cow, Bridgette, ruined Clancy’s vegetable garden.  But one day Clancy knocks on Tippitt’s door, asking him to turn his old coat.  Tippitt frostily agrees, ignoring Clancy’s hint that tea would be appreciated.  In the course of the week he forgets to turn the coat, and when Clancy arrives to collect it, he offers a lame excuse and a cup of tea.  Clancy visits three more times, and each time Tippitt has neglected the coat.  But with each visit the two men grow warmer toward one another until they are chatting again like old times, and Tippitt begins to understand Clancy’s feelings about his garden.  The two friends reconcile, and Clancy reveals that this was his intention all along: “A garden comes back with care and attention.  I thought maybe a friendship could too.”

This beautiful story is exceptionally well written, with a subtle wit that will appeal to both adults and children.  The Irish winter contrasts with Tippitt’s home and hot tea with warm bread, and the thawing of their friendship forms a nice parallel with the coming of spring.  The two characters, gruff and lonely, are rendered with tender sympathy.  Bunting is herself an Irish emigrant, and one gets the feeling these two men could have been based on people that she loves — indeed, Tippitt mentions a niece in America.

Many picture books emphasize friendship, but this one demonstrates the pain of  its absence, emphasizing the value of sympathy, forgiveness and reconciliation.  It gives a child-level view into rural Irish culture, with pleasing illustrations and well-written prose.  This title is unfortunately out of print, but is still available in libraries and in the used-book market.

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Publication Information: Bunting, Eve. Clancy's Coat. Cauley, Lorinda Bryan (Illustrator). Warne. 1984. ISBN: 0670806986.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 04-08, Books That Build Character
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Posted on October 26, 2009

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