The Hungry Coat
Demi. 2004. The Hungry Coat. Illustrated by Demi. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Demi depicts the classic moral of not judging people by what they look like in her beautifully illustrated version of The Hungry Coat. This tale from Turkey is based on the practical and sensible Nasrettin Hoca, a Turkish folk philosopher and teacher. Nasrettin Hoca, “a funny little wise man”, wears a huge white turban, an old worn out coat, likes to ride on his little gray donkey and help people. On his way to his rich friend’s banquet he stops to help catch a frisky goat that has gotten loose in a caravansary, a hostel for travelers. He arrives late to the banquet, dirty and smelling of goat, where his friends ignore him. He goes home to bathe and change into a beautiful new coat returns to the party where now he is the most popular man at the banquet. He begins to feed his coat saying, “Eat, coat! Eat!” and fills his jacket with all kinds of food. His friends, thinking this is very strange, ask why he is doing this and he replies that they must have wanted the coat to eat because when he was there earlier, no one paid him any attention but now they offer him food. “This shows it was the coat—and not me—that you invited to your banquet!” He reminds them to, “Look at the man and not his coat.” You can change the coat, but not the man. “With coats new are the best, but with friends, old are the best!” Friendship and prejudice are universal themes, which resonate across all cultures. The wise words of Nasrettin Hoca are as true today as they were hundreds of years ago. Demi’s intricate paint and ink drawings bring a depth to the story that goes beyond the tale. Look in the windows of the hostel and in the patterns of the rugs to find more details for hours of fun. This would provide an exciting storytelling opportunity for those who wish to try.