Demi. Margaret K. McElderry Books, Scholastic, 2004
The title certainly intrigued me. My daughters’ interest levels peaked when Nasrettin Hoca, the story’s main character, started feeding his coat. “Eat coat! Eat!” he said as he put loads of food and finally poured a whole bottle of wine into his coat. Nasrettin’s behaviour was out of the ordinary, particularly at a fancy banquet at the home of his wealthy friend. Nasrettin explained his actions, saying, “Surely, you wanted my coat to eat.” You see, he first arrived to the party in an old coat and smelling of goat, as he had just extracted the animal from a hostel. Nasrettin was late for the dinner party so went directly there, but no one spoke to him or offered him food, not even the host who had invited him. Nasrettin went home, bathed and changed into a beautiful red coat with golden threads. When he returned to the party he was treated like royalty. “This shows it was the coat–and not me–that you invited to your banquet!” he proclaimed.
According to the endnotes, Nasrettin Hoca (A.D. 1208-1284), upon whom many Turkish folktales are based, was known for his terrific sense of humour; this humour shines through in The Hungry Coat. This picture book would be an engaging conversation starter for discussions about judgement and prejudice for children of all ages.