Her book Precious Little was shortlist for the shortlist for the CAB Picture Book in 2013. From the very first page, Julie Hunt and Ron Brooks’ The Coat ensnares your attention. Hunt tells the story of a coat, which, at first, does not look like anything special, with Brooks’ clever coloring and it being stuffed with straw, the sleeves crossed in anger. It feels that it is destined for more than guarding a row of strawberries from a few crows. Along comes a dejected man, who shares the coat’s view and takes it, wearing t even though it was too big for him. ‘It was much too big but he felt he might grow into it. This sentence could allude to the man believing he has the ability to be worthy of such a coat. The coat then flies the man to a town called “Big Smoke”, telling him they have an appointment, which turns out to be at Cafe Delicate, a musical- themed restaurant, where, despite the man’s hesitation, he performs as a ventriloquist and a virtuoso accordion-player, thanks to a pair of white gloves, and begins to sing. As the man, shocked at this sudden display of his apparent musical Allen, grows in his own confidence and self-belief, so does his physically grow, until the coat fits him perfectly.
The fluid illustrations and their subtle but significant underlying themes are what really bring this story to life. In the beginning, the somber, bleak sepia tones and the murders of crows give a dark and dull feel to the first few pages, but at the close, the same scene of the paddock is now devoid of crows and bursting with color. The first time we see any hint of color is when the coat is flying the man to Big Smoke, and he next page which shows an overhead view of the town has slightly more color, with the coat now glowing yellow and red, as is the cafe in the distance.
This makes the reader make a connection, be it conscious or subconscious, between the coat and the cafe, which increases suspense as you ask yourself, “What’s going to happen The man, as we see throughout the book, does not seem to want to make the decisions; he goes along with what the coat says, and lets it call the shots for most of the book, letting it carry him around, even copying its sentences a few times: Splendid,” said the coat. “Splendid,” said the man, although it wasn’t a word he normally used. “Splendid, he said at the end of the meal” ‘The audience went wild. “Bravo,” they cried. “Bravo. Bravo! ” “Thank you,” cried the coat. “Thank you,” said the man. ‘ However, the very last page shows the man assert himself for the first time: ‘The man and the coat took a final bow and walked out of the Cafe Delicate to thunderous applause. “Where are you going? ” the doorman asked. “When will you be back? ” “Who knows,” said the man. “Who knows,” said the coat. And they strode off onto the night. This is the first time the man speaks before the coat. The tentatively emerging self-confidence of the man is conveyed by Hunt and Brooks through the fact that the man and the coat strode off into the night, when they could have Just as easily flown away and it would have been faster. This one tiny detail is a very clever way of getting the point across. Does blend into the background on some pages. However, in saying this, it is hard to imagine another font that would work as well as this does with the art style and whimsical plot such as this.
After you get over the fact that it is slightly annoying to read at first, it is easy to understand why the font was chosen because it Just works. Hunt and Brooks know what they are doing. The underlying themes of friendship, self-doubt (which then turns into self- confidence), and depression are evident throughout the book, which, again, is excellently conveyed through the art style and colors. The man’s depression, though not ever explicitly mentioned, is obvious from the way he constantly doubts himself, “I’m no performer,” said the man. ‘ “Oh no,” said the man.
Really, I can’t play” And the act that, in the beginning, when he approaches the coat and notes, “Oh, it’s only a scarecrow. ” It gives the impression he was surprised that someone would wave at him, and when he discovers it’s a scarecrow, he is even more disappointed. However the way the book is written ensures the reader doesn’t empathic too deeply with the self-deprecating comments and thoughts, which makes it easier to get through the book. The Coat is an odd book with a very unique concept with a beautiful art style, will appeal to both young and older readers, boys and girls, and is certainly not one to be missed.