Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Christmas Coat: Memoriesof My Sioux Childhood

While I usually present interviews with the author, today's guest, Ellen Beier, is the illustrator of this Christmas-themed book.

AUTHOR: Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
BOOK TITLE: The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood
PUBLISHER: Holiday House
WHAT IS IT?: one signed book
HOW DO YOU WANT THE WINNER TO BE CHOSEN?: Ellen will choose winner of book based on random drawing of comments LEFT ON THE CHRISTMAS COAT BLOG.  See below for blog link. Be sure to leave CONTACT INFORMATION.
WHO WILL DELIVER THE PRIZE TO WINNER?: Ellen can send a book within US.

Tell me a little about your book:
This story is based on a true event from the author's childhood, mid-winter 1945, on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, when the author was 12. As Christmas approaches, the families look forward to donated boxes of clothes and items from congregations in the east, called "theast" boxes. Virginia is especially in need of a new coat, and her younger brother, of a pair of boots. However, as the daughter of the local Episcopal priest, Virginia is encouraged to consider others' needs before her own, and must hold back tears as she watches one of the older girls retrieve the loveliest gray fur coat. With an unexpeected twist, and against the backdrop of a Native American Christmas celebration, Virginia is surprised on the holiday eve with a gift of her dreams.

What gave you the idea for this particular story?
I am the illustrator.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it. (see above)

Do you see special challenges to marketing a book with a seasonal theme?  If so, what are they? 
A book with a Christmas theme needs to be promoted well in advance of the holiday season. The positive side of this is that the holidays come around again year after year, and some special holiday books' following just grow stronger with time. Hopefully that will be true of The Christmas Coat, as a unique, authentic story of Native American Christmas in the 20th century.

How long before Christmas did you submit to your publisher? 
This book was in the works for several years.

How and why did you choose this publisher? 
Virginia D H Sneve has a long term relationship with Holiday House.

What about your book makes it special?
What is so special about this book is its authenticity in expressing both in words and pictures the celebration of Christmas among the Rosebud Sioux in the mid-20th century, when aspects of both Native American culture and Christian religion were part of the holiday and of daily life. As the illustrator, I researched both the author's history and the history of the Lakota Sioux extensively, reading everything I could get my hands on written by Lakota authors both present and past, including Sneve's semi-autobiographical Completing the Circle (1998).

What does Christmas mean to you? 
Christmas means time for family, food, song, and meditation on the gift of life.

What is your favorite Christmas memory? 
When I was a child in the suburbs of NYC, our school choir got to sing carols in Grand Central Station. We took the train in to the city and stood in the hallway as thousands of commuters walked by. Nothing tops that!

Where can people learn more about you and your work? 
I have created a blog which complements the book The Christmas Coat at:
where children, teachers and parents can find Native American recipes (from the author), coloring pages, and more information about the author and me, the illustrator. Please visit and comment for an opportunity to win a copy of this book!

Virginia's coat is too small and hardly protects her from the frigid South Dakota winter. As Christmas approaches, all the children on the Sioux reservation look forward to receiving boxes full of clothing sent by congregations in the East. Virginia spots a beautiful gray fur coat but holds back tears as it is claimed by one of her classmates. Later, Virginia can't believe what Mama brings home. Based on an event from the author's childhood, this picture book captures the true spirit of Christmas.

This book has won the following awards:
*       Starred review in Kirkus Reviews 9/1/2011
*       Smithsonian Magazine Best Children’s Book 2011
*       American Indian Library Association (AILA) Best Picture Book 2011
*       Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choice Book 2011


  1. I love the idea of this book and hope to find that it does truly convey the true spirit of Christmas!

  2. I tried both links provided for the question - Where can people learn more about you and your work? I got a message for both of them saying Not Found - error 404.

    I found the interview interesting. I enjoyed reading the synopsis of the book and the cover is really nice.

  3. Hi Suzanne - I apologize - the links were incomplete - try this: and
    Glad you enjoyed the interview =
    thank you Kelly-writer as well.