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Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback Children's Book Review

Updated on January 5, 2012
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback, a children's picture book about a resourceful and thrifty tailor
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback, a children's picture book about a resourceful and thrifty tailor
Back Cover of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
Back Cover of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback (ISBN-10: 0874997836) is an exploration of the themes of thrift and resourcefulness. Joseph is a talented tailor who finds a new use for the frayed fabric of his coat. The overcoat morphs into a jacket, then a vest, getting more and more worn. But Joseph finds a new use for it every time. This story gives new meaning and life in the phrase "renew, reuse, and recycle", and would be an appropriate addition to a classroom unit on that topic.

Joseph's approach to thrift is a celebration of life.The vivid illustrations in this Caldecott Award winning story portray a rainbow of colors, and evoke the story of Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors. The illustrations are both playful and humorous, including allusions to The Fiddler on the Roof, animal friends, and cut-away holes that give the reader a peek into each new transformation.

The story of Joseph the tailor's resourceful use of what he already has opens the doors for a broader discussion of the value of thrift in a family setting and for older students, in our economy. Taback's Joseph hearkens back to a time (the Great Depression?) when this type of thrift was not only valued but also necessary. This colorful and humorous celebration of thrift is a good resource for exploring how recycling can include things other than paper and plastics, and how we can show thanks for what we already have by using it wisely and well.

In the fairy-tale fashion of Charles Perrault, author Simms' Taback ends his-upbeat story with this moral that is especially appropriate for Hubbers:

You can always make something out of nothing.

A wise-cracking and humorous observation with a hidden message! This is certainly an enjoyable and fun read that doesn't take its upbeat message too seriously, and I strongly recommend that you add it to your menu of Holiday reading! 

Thematic Elements

  • Resourcefulness
  • Recycling
  • Thrift/Saving Money
  • Values-based children's picture books
  • Caldecott Medal
  • Farm Animals 

Age-Related Notes

  • This book is recommended for ages 4-8. With easy-to-follow text, this book is an appropriate read-aloud for a preschool group setting.
  • Joseph Had a Little Overcoat could be adapted for use in a classroom discussion of thrift, resourcefulness, The Great Depression, or recycling.

More Books Written or Illustrated by Simms Taback 

  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
  • This is the House That Jack Built  
  • Who Said Moo?  
  • I Miss You Every Day  
  • Two Little Witches  
  • Too Much Noise (with Ann McGovern)  
  • Simms Taback's Safari Animals  
  • Kibitzers and Fools 

More Recommended Children's Books

 Please feel to explore some of my favorite children's books listed here:

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett · A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams · Babies by Gyo Fujikawa · Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin and Eric Carle · Charley Harper's ABCs by Charlie Harper · Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons · Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes · Daughter of a King by Rachel Ann Nunes · Excuse Me! By Lisa Kopelke · Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat · Harry and The Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach · Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson · I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll · I'd Choose You by John Trent · Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback · King of Kings by Susan Hill · Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman · Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes · Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney · Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney · Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle · No David! by David Shannon · Olivia by Ian Falconer · Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier · Snowballs by Lois Ehlert · So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury · Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch · The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone · The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle · The King With Six Friends by Jay Williams · The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman · The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges · The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell · The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy · The Red Shoes a Fairy Tale by Gloria Fowler and Sun Young Yoo · The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats · Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel · Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White · Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak · Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits


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