Marvelous Picture Books: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

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Simms Taback’s Joseph Had A Little Overcoat tells the story of a resourceful man who alters and reuses his tattered and worn overcoat. Through the clever use of dye cuts, Taback allows children to share in Joseph’s experience as his overcoat becomes a jacket and then a vest and finally a button. Taback’s message to readers is that “you can always make something out of nothing.”

Taback’s story is enriched by its Caldecott Medal-winning illustrations. Beginning with the endpapers, Taback collages bright photographs with illustrations, creating a patchwork of fabrics. On every page there is a playful mix of photography and illustration. No single drawing is one color, but rather, each picture is decorated with many textures and patterns. Every character has distinguishable features and characteristics carefully chosen by Taback. Minute, easy to miss details infuse this story with a sense of warmth and tradition. We share in the familial and congregational love of an old European Jewish community complete with a Yiddish newspaper, Menorah, and didactic wall hangings.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat was adapted from Taback’s favorite childhood song, “I Had a Little Overcoat.” This love for the song is apparent in the warmth he creates within his story. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is a wonderful story for children of all ages about the importance of making due with what we have and finding satisfaction with our lives. Children and adults alike will treasure Taback’s use of color, texture, and die cut techniques to enrich the story with a playful spirit.

To see an animated video of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat click here.

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One response »

  1. This book looks amazing! Great illustrations, great message. I love the whole "Make something out of nothing" concept. That is such a valuable lesson for adults and kids alike. I also think this would be a very powerful book for many ages. I am in grad school for elementary education and we are currently learning about the importance of establishing connections across the various subjects. As I was reading your post, I couldn't help but think how you could tie it in to a social studies lesson on culture. I will definitely be checking this one out- thanks so much for the insightful post, Sara!!!

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