Taback, Simms. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. New York: Viking, 1999. ISBN 0670878553
Joseph has little overcoat and when it is too worn, he makes another smaller article of clothing. Each time the item is old and worn, he does the same again until nothing is left. However, all is not lost, Joseph is a creative genius!
This is an engineered pictured book, meaning it has die-cuts in each page. Simms Taback adapted his favorite Yiddish folk song, “I Had a Little Overcoat” into a book and later re-illustrated the book after people noticed that Joseph looked like him.
The text style is predictable, “Joseph had a….. It got old and worn”. The phrases alternate between what Joseph has and what he makes new and then does. The story line flows naturally and makes Joseph real and likeable.
The beautiful illustrations of this book will give children a glimpse into Joseph’s everyday life with his farm animals, in his home, and with his community. The lively expressions on the character’s faces invoke feelings they must have been experiencing. Careful inspection of the pages reveal Joseph is a reader, receives letters and postcards from others, is Jewish, and lives in Poland. At first glance and especially if you are looking at the die-cuts and bold colors, these details might be missed.
Children will enjoy this clever book with a positive lesson. They may also enjoy looking at the photographs Joseph has in his home. Some look like illustrations and some look like real photography.
PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY, 2/29/2000: “This is tailor-made for reading aloud.”
BOOKLIST, January 1 & 15, 2000: “A true example of accomplished bookmaking”.
*Read other books with a moral. Have older students try writing their own story with a moral.
*Lead a discussion about recycling. Have students bring an object to class and make something new out of it.
*Use the creative artwork on each page to work on observation skills.
*Other books by or illustrated by Taback:
Taback, Simms. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. ISBN 0590631888
Ziefert, Harriet. Who Said Moo? ISBN 9781929766475
Hennessy, B.G. Road Builders ISBN 9780670833900