Friday, March 21, 2014

The Rag Coat

This week, we read The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills for our FIAR book.  It is phenomenal, probably my favorite FIAR read so far.  We were both in tears!  Amazon's synopsis of it says, "With paintings that capture all the beauty of Appalachia in authentic detail, this tender story about a resourceful mountain girl's special coat will touch readers with its affirming message of love and friendship."  It was truly a beautiful story and the fact that it mirrored the lessons in the Bible story of Joseph and his colorful coat made it all the more meaningful.  I would highly recommend this book.
To start our study, we located the Appalachian mountains on our map and colored our story disk for this book.
 Here is Maggie, placing it on our US map.
She stuck it in between our other FIAR Appalachian reads that we already covered, When I Was Young in the Mountains, and Down Down the Mountain. (To find the activities we did for those reads, simply click the "Appalachia" tab to the left.)
 Then, we refreshed ourselves on Appalachia by reading Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant ...
... (where we recognized similarities with The Rag Coat, like this picture of a coal miner, the same as Minna's father in the book) ...
... and Pioneer Children of Appalachia by Joan Anderson ...
... (where we observed a quilting circle like the one the "Quilting Mothers" had in the book).
We then talked about the things that we know of old Appalachia, like this remake of a one-room schoolhouse with a wood stove that is at our local museum (also in The Rag Coat).
And we talked about how this story mirrors the story of Joseph in the Bible, who also had a colorful coat, and who, instead of being bitter at the people who taunted him, practiced forgiveness (as Minna did).  Then we read Stories from the Bible: Joseph's Coat of Many Colors by Kathryn Smith.
Then, we made the cute "Joseph's Color Coat" snack I've been seeing float around Pinterest using these Airheads XTREMES rainbow candy.
First, I toasted a piece of bread and cut it into the shape of a coat.
 Then, I topped it with a layer of cream cheese before adding the rainbow candy strips.  It looks like Joseph's colorful coat!
 It made her very happy!
After our snack, we watched this video of Dolly Parton singing her "Coat of Many Colors."  This song is PERFECT for this book, as it describes EXACTLY what Minna went through in The Rag Coat and it even refers to Joseph's coat!  Definitely add this to your FIAR plans for this book!
For dinner one night, we made the Chicken Casserole and Apple Cobbler Appalachian recipes we found in The Five in a Row Cookbook.
Chicken Casserole ...
 ... and Apple Cobbler!
Then, we talked about quilts and how quilts tell stories.  We read The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy ...
... and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson ...
...then learned more about different quilting block patterns in The Quilt-Block History of Pioneer Days by Mary Cobb ...
... and American Quilt-Making: Stories in Cloth by Ann Stalcup ...
 ... and, lastly, read The Quilting Bee by Gail Gibbons.
Then, we used these patchwork stickers I bought from Dover Publications to make our own little quilts on paper.
Sticking them on ...
Here is her "quilt," which she plans to give to her Furby. 
Then, we talked about viewpoint, noting that the picture of Minna on the day of her father's funeral made her look small and vulnerable against the towering adults in the room.  We set out to make our own viewpoint picture and Maggie decided to draw the viewpoint of a scared person next to a large elephant.  Great job, Mags!
Next, we used the template found at
 to make our own rag coat using scraps of cardstock.

Maggie's Rag Coat!  :)
Next, we copied some popular quilt block patterns with our magnetic tangrams. 
In one illustration of the book, you see a dulcimer on the wall of Minna's cabin. 
We then listened to some dulcimer music we found on YouTube.
Then, we talked about coal.  First, we paged through Growing Up in Coal Country by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

Later, we watched these short videos about coal mining ...
... and "The Coal Miner Song" by Jimmy Joe Lee.

We then played the "Mining for Coal" game we found at  For the same we used one dice, a black bead to represent the coal marker, a little golden stone to represent the gold marker, and pennies.  One penny was equivalent to one ton of coal, so the more pennies each player had, the more tons of coal they collected in the game.  The winner got to keep their "coal!"
 (You can find more information about coal at 
Counting her "tons of coal" ...
The victor with 22 tons of coal!
Next, we made the "Lumps of Coal" as seen at, using clumps of salt dough (2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water), painted black.
Forming lumps of salt dough ...
Ready to bake for one hour at 275 degrees!
Once our salt dough rocks had cooled, we painted them with black tempera paint.  (Salt dough is such a great resource for so many different projects!  And it's so easy to paint because it doesn't need but one coat.  One coat of this black paint on white was enough!)
 Our "lumps of coal," drying ...
 Once dry, we counted them, then while she geared up in some mining garb, I hid them around the house for her to "mine."  (She was most excited about this part!)
 Found one!
 20 pieces of coal found!  A good day's work!  (Actually, in hindsight, it would have been more fun had I waited until dark, turned the lights off, and let her do this by headlight.  I think we will have to do this again tonight!)
We also did some drawing with a charcoal pencil.  I explained to her that coal is the black mineral found below the ground, while charcoal is the black substance made by burning wood, but I told her we were doing this to get an idea of how coal would look and feel.  We decided to make a coal mining picture.
Here is Maggie's coal mine picture, complete with black charcoal hands!  She explained that the center is the track for the mine cart to go deeper into the mine.
Then, finally, to wrap up this book study, we made the "Coal Cookies" as seen at, although I removed the espresso powder in our batch, and used this special dark cocoa instead of the cocoa called for, hoping it would make a darker cookie.  (It did and the taste was phenomenal!) 
Mixing ...
 Our batter looked like wet soil!
 Adding the chocolate chips (she was careful to save a couple for her mouth) ...
 Ready for the oven ...
 Coal Cookies!
 They were DELICIOUS!
That's a wrap! What a great read!  We love FIAR!