Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Coat of Many Colors, an Illustrated Song

Posted on: August 30, 2016

coat of many colors parton boynton-hughes
Coat of Many Colors
Words and Music by Dolly Parton
Illustrated by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

This illustration will come with a downloadable song called, MAKING FUN AIN’T FUNNY, which makes me think of the wonderful anti-bullying song DON’T LAUGH AT ME.


coat of many colors
Coat of Many Colors
Words and Music by Dolly Parton
Illustrated by Judith Sutton

This is an adorable illustration and, as I write this 8/30/2016, the only illustration currently available to sing the song.  I’m not sure I understand how these things work, since this illustration was published in 1994, but the lyrics as printed on the pages do not match any recording of the song.  This is frustrating, since, maybe it’s just me, one would naturally seek to read along with a recording.  Why would they change the lyric arrangement?  If you want to sing with the recording, the first bridge is in the wrong place, so you have to skip over the lyrics and then page backwards.  The book also includes an additional verse that is not part of the recordings, so if you want to try it (turning back and forth among the pages), you will run out of music before the book is over.

None of this takes away from the lovely, sweet illustrations.  But if you want to sing with a recording, it’s not going to be easy.

I have high hopes that the new illustration (being released in October 2016) will follow the recordings.  If it doesn’t, we’ll just have to live with it, since COAT OF MANY COLORS, really is a song worth sharing with kids.

Dolly Parton writes a wonderful dedication of the book to her mother, saying, “To my mother, Avie Lee Parton; to all the good mothers everywhere; and to anyone who has suffered the emotional pain of being made fun of, may this book be healing.”  You sure can’t beat that!

I also like what the back of this book says:

Winter is coming, and the air is getting cold.  Mama knows that her little girl needs a coat, but there is no money to buy new clothes.  Then a neighbor brings a box of rags,and mama begins to stitch them together.  As she sews, she tells the story of Joseph, and how proudly he wore his coat of many colors. And so the little girl goes to school, happily wearing her rainbow-colored coat.  When he classmates see the coat, they laugh.  But instead of feeling sorry for herself, the girl feels sorry for them.  They can’t understand that she is rich – because her coat is filled with her mama’s love.


Penguin/Random House Publishers webpage for Brooke Boynton-Hughes Illustration (released in October 2016)

Information about the Boynton-Hughes illustration on Dolly Parton’s website includes story of how she came to write the biographical song and an image of a two page illustrated spread from the book:



Words and Music by Dolly Parton

Back through the years
I go wandrin’ once again,
Back to the seasons of my youth.
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us,
And how my mama put the rags to use.

There were rags of many colors
But every piece was small.
And I didn’t have a coat,
And it was way down in the fall.

Mama sewed the rags together,
Sewin’ every piece with love.
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of.

As she sewed, she told a story
From the Bible she had read,
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore, and then she said,
I hope this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness
And I just couldn’t wait to wear it,
And Mama blessed it with a kiss.

My coat of many colors that my mama made for me,
Mad only from rags, but I wore it so proudly.
Although we had no money,
I was rich as I could be,
In my coat of many colors
My mama made for me.

So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes,
In my coat of many colors,
I hurried off to school,
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
And my coat of many colors
My mama made for me.

And, oh, I couldn’t understand it,
For I felt I was rich.
And I told them of the love
My mama sewed in every stitch.
And I told ’em all the story
Mama told me while she sewed,
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes.

But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be.

Now, I know we had no money,
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My mama made for me…
Made it just for me.





Sing along with this instrumental/karaoke:

Sing along with this instrumental/karaoke (this one includes the vocals):

Note for COAT OF MANY COLORS as Day 242 of Sing Books With Emily’s 365 Days of Illustrated Song 2016

Here is an interesting coincidence.  I  made up this list of songs for the 366 days of 2016 (and I realize only JUST now that I should have made it the 366 Days of Illustrated Song 2016) in early January 2016, choosing COAT OF MANY COLORS (as Illustrated by Judith Sutton) for 8/30/2016.  Just the other night, my husband and I watched a Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that we had saved up in the Tivo in which Jimmy interviewed Dolly Parton.  At the end of the interview, she announced that she had a new children’s book coming out, an illustration of COAT OF MANY COLORS (but this one, to be released mid-October 2016, illustrated by Brook Boynton-Hughes).  I’m delighted to see that this illustrated song popped up at the right time in the list of songs, so I could include it in the Sing Books archive.

Relates Posts

Don’t Laugh at Me, an Illustrated Song

Singable Picture Books Celebrating Tolerance and Compassion (another list inspired by Nikki)



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