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What do you do when a coat gets too old and shabby?
Joseph had a little overcoat, but it was full of holes—just like this book! When Joseph's coat got too old and shabby, he made it into a jacket. But what did he make it into after that? And after that? As children turn the pages of this book, they can use the die-cut holes to guess what Joseph will be making next from his amazing overcoat, while they laugh at the bold, cheerful artwork and learn that you can always make something, even out of nothing.
— from the Publisher
Joseph Had A Little Overcoat
Publishers Weekly
As in his Caldecott Honor book, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Taback's inventive use of die-cut pages shows off his signature artwork, here newly created for his 1977 adaptation of a Yiddish folk song.
This diverting, sequential story unravels as swiftly as the threads of Joseph's well-loved, patch-covered plaid coat. A flip of the page allows children to peek through to subsequent spreads as Joseph's tailoring produces items of decreasing size.
The author puts a droll spin on his narrative when Joseph loses the last remnant of the coatAa buttonAand decides to make a book about it.
"Which shows... you can always make something out of nothing," writes Taback, who wryly slips himself into his story by depicting Joseph creating a dummy for the book that readers are holding.
Still, it's the bustling mixed-media artwork, highlighted by the strategically placed die-cuts, that steals the show. Taback works into his folk art a menagerie of wide-eyed animals witnessing the overcoat's transformation, miniature photographs superimposed on paintings and some clever asides reproduced in small print (a wall hanging declares, "Better to have an ugly patch than a beautiful hole"; a newspaper headline announces, "Fiddler on Roof Falls off Roof").
With its effective repetition and an abundance of visual humor, this is tailor-made for reading aloud.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information


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Children’s Literature
What do you do with an overcoat that is torn and worn but that is so dear that you can't toss it out? Cut it down, trim it and turn it into something else.
That's just what Simms Taback does in his Caldecott Medal book Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. Taback has clothed this well-known tale with comic characters, bold colors and a die-cut on each page to highlight the journey from coat to button to memory. The only thing left is to tell the story.
Each page is enriched with details appreciated more by adults than children--for example, a newspaper headline reads "Fiddler On Roof Falls Off Roof" or "Chelm Rabbi Knows Why the Ocean is Salty" (It's due to the herring)!
Family pictures adorn the walls and peer out of apartment windows, Yiddish newspapers lying on the floor, books with authors such as Sholom Aleichem and I.L. Peretz all vie for attention and inspire adults to share this book with their children and grandchildren. The music is included at the end of the book.
Reviewed by Jan Lieberman
This newly illustrated version of a book Taback first published in 1977 is a true example of accomplished bookmaking—from the typography and the endpapers to the bar code, set in what appears to be a patch of fabric.
Taback's mixed-media and collage illustrations are alive with warmth, humor, and humanity. Their colors are festive yet controlled, and they are filled with homey clutter, interesting characters, and a million details to bring children back again and again.
The simple text, which was adapted from the Yiddish song "I Had a Little Overcoat," begins as Joseph makes a jacket from his old, worn coat. When the jacket wears out, Joseph makes a vest, and so on, until he has only enough to cover a button.
Cut outs emphasize the use and reuse of the material and add to the general sense of fun. When Joseph loses, he writes a story about it all, bringing children to the moral "You can always make something out of nothing."
Reviewed by Tim Arnold
School Library Journal
A book bursting at the seams with ingenuity and creative spirit. When Joseph's overcoat becomes "old and worn," he snips off the patches and turns it into a jacket. When his jacket is beyond repair, he makes a vest.
Joseph recycles his garments until he has nothing left. But by trading in his scissors for a pen and paintbrush he creates a story, showing "you can always make something out of nothing."
Clever die-cut holes provide clues as to what Joseph will make next: windowpanes in one scene become a scarf upon turning the page.
Striking gouache, watercolor, and collage illustrations are chock-full of witty details-letters to read, proverbs on the walls, even a fiddler on the roof. Taback adapted this tale from a Yiddish folk song and the music and English lyrics are appended. The rhythm and repetition make it a perfect storytime read-aloud.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information. Reviewed by Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada
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