Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Title: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Author: Taback, Simms

Illustrator: Taback, Simms.

Publisher: Viking, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-87855-3

Rating: 4/5 stars

Award: Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner, 2000

In his book, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, Taback seamlessly weaves the theme, “you can always make something out of nothing” with both the words and pictures.  A resourceful Joseph, who started with an overcoat, continued to make the most of his piece of fabric as it became more and more worn, depicting the innate good nature of mankind in those who are resourceful.  When it could no longer be worn as an overcoat, he made it into a jacket.  When the jacket “got old and worn” Joseph made it into a vest.  The oral tradition of this story is evident by the repetitive chorus and Taback weaves his word repetitions not only in the story line but ultimately as the moral of the story.  The author weaves this theme through the images, as well.  Combining various artistic technique, Taback makes use of every square inch of each page, creating something out of nothing on each page.  On top of the words and illustrations, Taback emphasizes the cultural heritage of the story by including the sheet music to the age-old song that inspired the story.

Professional Review Excerpt:

“Vibrant rich colors, playful details, and skillfully-placed die cuts contribute to the book’s raucous merriment that takes this Yiddish folk song far beyond the simple words,” said Barbara Z. Kiefer, chair of the Caldecott Award Selection Committee. “The patchwork layout of the pages, the two-dimensional paintings and the exaggerated perspectives, reminiscent of the folk art tradition, are the very fabric that turn this overcoat into a story.”

Taback, Simms. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. New York, NY: Viking, 1999.
Association for Library Service to Children. “2000 Caldecott Medal and Honor Books.”

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