The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff tells the story of two young Jewish cousins, best friends and co-storytellers, who escape persecution in Russia by traveling to America with their family in the early 1900s.
I’m not at all certain I have the conflict correct. The family needs to pass inspection in America, and Grisha’s coat seems to be holding them back. But maybe I have it all backwards. Maybe Grisha is the protagonist and he needs to keep his coat (and with it, his memories to comfort him). However you look at it, Rachel propels the story forward and saves the day with her keen imagination. Her stories comfort friends, her stories solve conflicts, and her stories preserve memories. And yet, these stories seem to be made manifest in Grisha’s coat.
Crime Scene [Setting]
Russia, Jewish village (shtetl) with cobblestone streets and cold wooden houses
America, Ellis Island, NY—Inspection station
During reign of Nicholas I
Immigration to America
On the ship for 14 days
Rachel—girl who loved to tell stories
Grisha—boy; cousin and friend to Rachel, adopted into her family; liked to draw pictures; quiet, sad; parents died