Coat of Many Colors

Joey watched as his mother opened her big trunk full of cloth. She was going to make new jackets for the boys. The first piece she pulled out was a beautiful red—redder than the apples on the tree outside.

Mother measured the fabric and said, “There’s enough here for one coat.”

Joey hoped it would be his. He held the red cloth against his cheek. It was soft and warm.

Mother searched for another piece. “Here’s a green one,” she said. “Let’s see if there is enough to make a jacket.” She stretched it out between her arms. The green reminded Joey of the grass in his backyard—the color it was when you lay down and looked at it closely.

“There’s plenty,” Mother said with a smile, handing the material to Joey. He took it and sniffed, hoping it would smell like the grass. Instead the material smelled just like the cedar trunk. But that was a good smell too. Joey thought he might like a green jacket almost as much as a red one.

Soon bundles of cloth were piled around Mother. One stack was taller than Joey as he sat on the floor beside the trunk.

“This is a beautiful bright yellow, Joey. Do you like it?” Mother held up some fabric the color of the school bus Joey’s brothers rode.

“Oh, yes. May I have a yellow coat?” he asked.

“I’m not sure. Let’s measure you and find out.” She took the measuring tape and held one end on Joey’s shoulder, then stretched it down to the top of the pocket on his jeans. “Fifteen inches,” she said. She measured the yellow cloth and shook her head. “There isn’t enough for sleeves, Joey.”

Joey was disappointed. He sat down and picked up the red and green and yellow fabrics and looked at them carefully. All of them were pretty.

Mother found one last piece of jacket material. This one was blue. Joey couldn’t think of anything as blue as this piece of cloth. He decided that the blue material was the nicest color after all.

Mother carefully packed all the pieces of fabric that wouldn’t be used back into the trunk. Joey was sorry to see the yellow cloth disappear. He gathered the green, red, and blue pieces into his arms and carried them into his mother’s workroom. He wondered which of the bright colors his jacket would be made of.

As he walked past the window, Joey looked out and saw the school bus. His three big brothers were coming up the lane, and he ran out to meet them.

“Hey,” he shouted as he ran toward his brothers. “Mom is making new coats for everybody, and I’m helping!”

Peter grabbed him and swung him around. “How can you help Mom sew?” he asked.

“Well, she’s not sewing yet. She just got the material out. And it’s pretty.”

Tommy laughed. “Boys don’t wear pretty clothes.”

“Sure they do,” Joey said, smiling at Tommy. “Your football shirt is pretty.”

Tommy laughed again.

“We made cookies today too,” said Joey.

Tommy picked Joey up and carried him, upside down, into the house.

“Boys,” Mother said, “I’m making new jackets. Peter, please eat one cookie at a time. Which color would each of you like?”

Mike picked up each piece of fabric. He considered each color. “I really like the blue,” he said. “May I have the blue?”

“Does anyone else want the blue?”

“I do, I do!” said Joey.

“Who wants the red one?” Mother asked.

“I want the red too,” Joey said.

“But you can’t have them both. Besides, I like the red material too,” explained Tommy.

“Hey, Mom,” said Peter, “how are you going to make four coats with only three pieces of material?”

Joey was surprised. He hadn’t thought of that problem.

Mother smiled. “Would one of you like to have a patchwork jacket?” she asked hopefully. “There would be plenty left from three jackets to make one more.”

“Like the quilt on my bed?” Mike frowned. “No, I don’t think I would like that.”


“No, Mom. I want the green material. It’s the same color as my Sunday pants.”

Mother looked at Tommy who asked, “Why not Joey? He’s the littlest and doesn’t have to go to school and be laughed at.”

Joey thought about it. He wasn’t sure he wanted to have a coat that Tommy, Mike, and Peter thought was funny.

“That’s a good idea,” Peter said. “Joey won’t mind.”

But Joey was beginning to mind. “Peter, why don’t you want a patchwork coat?” he asked.

Peter looked down at him. “Patchwork is made from scraps. I don’t want a coat made from leftovers.”

“Oh.” Joey sat down and thought about it. He looked at Mother. She looked sad. “It’s OK, Mom, I’ll wear the patchwork coat,” he said. He hoped that maybe the patchwork coat would get lost while he was at the playground or at Primary.

Mother smiled and got out her scissors. “OK,” she said, “four coats for four boys coming up.”

Finally the jackets were finished. Joey had watched Mother sew the red one. He had collected the scraps when she cut out the green material. And he had seen her putting the sleeves in Mike’s blue coat. But he had never seen the patchwork coat. He wondered what it would look like and if his brothers would laugh at him.

When the boys finished doing the supper dishes a few nights later, Mother called them into the sewing room. Dad came, too, to see the new coats.

First from the closet came Tommy’s red jacket. He put it on. “Oh, Mom, it’s beautiful,” he said. Joey agreed. It was a beautiful coat.

Next Mother handed the green jacket to Peter.

“Thanks, Mom, it just fits,” Peter said.

Mike was waiting impatiently. Mother gave the blue coat to him. He tried it on and zipped the zipper up and down. “Perfect,” he said.

Joey knew it was his turn next. He stood behind Dad, hoping Mother wouldn’t see him and would leave the jacket made of scraps in the closet.

Mother reached into the closet once more. Joey closed his eyes.

“Joey,” Mother said. “Joey, open your eyes.”

Joey opened his eyes. Mother was holding a jacket that was red in front, with bright yellow stars, one on each side. The sleeves were blue, and on the green back J O E Y was stitched in big yellow letters.

Joey put the jacket on.

Peter said, “Wow, Mom, that’s a super jacket.”

“It sure is,” Tommy agreed.

“Yes,” Mike added. “You’re lucky you’re so little. Otherwise your big brothers would wear your jacket and you’d never see it.”

Joey smiled. “Mom’s smart,” he said. “She knew I’d like all the colors best.”

Mother smiled and put her arms around all of her boys, squeezing them in a big hug. “Just like I like all of you best,” she said.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney