Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Caldecott Honor Book)

by Simms Taback (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 1999





Viking Books for Young Readers (1999), 40 pages


A very old overcoat is recycled numerous times into a variety of garments.

User reviews

LibraryThing member STBA
An old Eastern European folk song provides the basis for a tale about a peasant who devises clever uses for this worn-out overcoat.
LibraryThing member b1m1d
This is a delightful story of a man named Joseph and his love for his overcoat. He loved this coat so much that he recycled it into something different to wear each time it became tattered. This book is very creative with the cutouts that reveal each different type of clothing that Joseph has made.
I personally like this story because I related with Joseph on the level that I too do not just throw stuff out. I like to make new from old.
In the classroom, teachers could use this book as the first step in teaching kids about recycling. They could also bring in used objects and help the kids to create something NEW.
… (more)
LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
I love this book. Funny, charming story told with beautiful multimedia artwork filled with puns, injokes and allusions to Jewish literature, history and culture. A real winner- literally, since it won the Sydney Taylor Book Award and was honored by the Caldecott committee as well. Awesome for kids and adults.
LibraryThing member mlgonzales
This book was an idea from a Yiddish folksong. This edition of Simms Tabath has been newly illustrated with collage and oil-based paint, as has received a Caldecott award. Simms beautifully tells the story of a tailor/ farmer who has a overcoat that throughout the years gets torn and worn to nearly nothing, until evidentially there is nothing left of his overcoat.
Being a mother of 2, I can related to things becoming torn and worn, either they are new or old. The stubbornness of not letting go or trashing precious items has been like an addiction in our home. Finding that Joseph allowed himself to start over was a great way to explain to my children that starting over isnt a bad thing at all.
In the classroom, I would allow the students to create pictures of torn and worn fabric, newspapers, colored paper and paints , then share.Also allow the children to bring in old, worn items to class and share what story they have behind this precious gift.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Amber_88
This is a wonderful example of realistic fiction, because clothes are getting worn out and being made into other things, which really happens in real life.
This story is too brief to critique the setting, plot, or characters.
LibraryThing member MDees
This book is a story about Joseph and his overcoat. It taken from an old Yiddish song titled, “I Had a Little Overcoat”. As Joseph’s coat gets “old and worn” he remakes it into a jacket. Of course the jacket gets “old and worn” and he remakes it again. This goes on until the end result is a button. The lesson learned is that you can make something out of nothing.
I really enjoyed this book because it reminds of my mom growing up. She could recycle clothes to fit just about any occasion. The illustrations in this book are fantastic. The colors are bright and really capture your attention. There are also cutouts from one page to another that young readers will enjoy.
This book could be used to talk about other cultures since the story is adapted from an old Yiddish song. Also, you could discuss how items sometimes have more than one use and involve the students’ creativity.
… (more)
LibraryThing member emgriff
As Joseph's overcoat gets old and ragged, he reinvents it and recycles it until all that's left is the story of all the things his favorite coat used to be. Based on a Yiddish folksong, the story features Joseph, a creative man (who resembles the author), and his colorful, old-world Jewish neighborhood. The illustrations are done in an incredibly rich multimedia style which incorporates photographs, text and fabric. As each of Joseph's articles of clothing wear out, cut-out pages transform it into something new. Highly recommended for preschool and early elementary school children who will delight in discovering all of the details and surprises hidden on each page.… (more)
LibraryThing member djmeyers
Delightfully warm story of the transformation of a worn out overcoat. Joseph uses the overcoat's material until finally it is gone, and then he writes a book! The theme of "you can always make something out of nothing" is very predominant here, and is beautifully played out in the book thru collage art, real photos, and wise sayings. I absolutely love this book, mainly because it is hard for me to throw away things that could be used for another purpose. Taback's art draws me into the story and makes me feel like a welcomed guest. I can definately see why it won the Caldecott award, in that its use of pictures tells far more than the actual text.… (more)
LibraryThing member ccondra
Teaches the lesson you can always make something out of nothing. You could do a lesson on recycling
LibraryThing member Jenny_Hayes
This story is about a man named, Joseph. He has an overcoat that he loves to wear, but soon the overcoat become old and war. Instead of throwing it away he makes it into a jacket. Soon the jacket becomes worn also, so he makes a vest, and so on so forth down to a handkerchief that becomes old and worn. So he lastly takes the handkerchief pieces left and makes a button. But in the end he loses the button and gets left with nothing.
This is a great story! I love that the moral of the story is that you could always make something out of nothing. This is a great theme to pass to children.
One extension idea is to design your “something” and cut it down each time into something new. Another extension idea is to make a quilt. Students could bring in old pieces of fabric from home and the teacher could sew it together. (You could improvise by using paper colored by the students and paste them all together.
… (more)
LibraryThing member alswartzfager
This book is the winner of the Caldecott Award. The main character, Joseph, has a sweater which get old. He then makes multiple things out of what is left, until he has lost the last thing he made. He then makes a book about it, The moral of this book is that you can always make something out of nothing, so cute! The pictures are really fun and creative in this book, I definitely recommend this book to any age classroom!… (more)
LibraryThing member jrozean0128
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is the story of a Polish man named Joseph who starts out with an overcoat that gets worn out. He then fashions the remains into a jacket, which also wears out. Eventually Joseph is left with nothing after his original overcoat had been morphed into a single button that Joseph finally looses. But Joseph does not give up. He creates a story about his overcoat and all its capabilities.

I think this is a very positive tale for young children. It proposes several themes. For one the tale suggests that one can live a happy life if one takes a glass is half full outlook on life. Also the tale encourages creativity since Joseph continued to create despite the apparent shortcomings that he faced. The tale also encourages us not to waste, which I think is an important lesson for any child.

I think that this story would be a good introduction to learning about efforts to protect the environment. The tale is a story about recycling and stresses the importance of not being wasteful. After reading this book I would have the children brainstorm ideas about how we can be more resourceful at home and at school. Are there ways that we could be less wasteful? After the discussion I might have the children create posters that could be put up in the classroom to remind us to not be wasteful in our daily lives.
… (more)
LibraryThing member carlabrite
This story is about a man who started off with an overcoat that became old and worn. Instead of throwing it away Joseph takes his overcoat and uses it to make many different thngs with. The story uses the moral, "You can always make something out of nothing". I enjoyed this book and reading about the many different items that Joseph made from one scrap of clothing. This story could be used to teach about recycling. You can use the Joseph doll that comes along with the book to let the children interact with the doll and the book as you read it. The book could be used to help promote children in problem solving ways that they could reuse the items of clothing that they have outgrown.… (more)
LibraryThing member lc136067
This book is about a man named Joseph and his overcoat. His overcoat gets old and worn and he make it into a jacket, then to a vest, a scarf,a tie, a handkerchief, then a button. Joseph loses his button so he writes a book and tell us you always make something out of nothing!
I thought this book was really neat.I loved the cutout pages. The message behind it was great!
In this classroom I would have the kids make something out of nothing. I would give them a random object and have them use their imagination to let it become whatever they wanted. Or i would have them draw their favorite part in the story.
… (more)
LibraryThing member ilovezeppe
This is a cute book about Joseph and his overcoat. When his overcoat gets old and worn, it gets turned into a number of different items of clothing. Moral of the story can always make something out of nothing.
LibraryThing member ymartinez
can be used with the the different gospels in the bible to compare.
It would be interesting to to compare to the original story or compare to "Bit by Bit".
LibraryThing member KristinWhite
This book is good for children kindergarten to first grade. Joseph has a coat and it continues to get worn. As it gets smaller, he makes it into different things. Then he makes it into a button, but he loses it. So, he writes a book about it which teaches children how to make something out of nothing.
LibraryThing member raizel
Caldecott winning book with lots of details in the brightly colored illustrations (against a dark background). Children enjoy guessing what the next item of clothing will be based upon the hole cut in the page. They can also read along since the structure repeats: Joseph had a little [item of clothing] . It got old and worn. So he made a [smaller item of clothing] out of it and [did something].

What's left at the end in this version of the Yiddish song are a book AND a moral: "you can always make something from nothing." The song, with musical notation, is at the back of the book, along with an author's note explaining that the illustrations are revised.

Can be used to discuss shtetl life. Also, what is left when everything else has gone away is the story of everything going away. Memory can survive events and things. But only if it is shared and handed down/along to others. See Elie Wiesel's story about the generations of Hasidic rabbis successfully who pray (with less and less information) to save their community.

Or, if you also read Something from Nothing and Bit by Bit, you can make a bar graph showing the number of times the articles of clothing are used in all the books. You can also make your own overcoat out of paper and cut it up to match the story if you plan it carefully. Or bring in the various clothes mentioned, show them at the appropriate time and let a small class try them on after the book is finished.
… (more)
LibraryThing member skstiles612
I really loved this book. It is based on an old Yiddish song. It is the story of a man who has a worn overcoat. It begins to wear out. When you turn the page there is a cutout that shows it has been made into a jacket then a vest, a scarf, tie, suspenders, then buttons. When it can't be made into anything else he creates the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member katiejanelewis
Joseph had a little overcoat that was old and worn... so he made a jacket. Then his jacket became old and worn.... so he kept making things out of it until he had nothing left! This book also has a song at the end for students to sing (it is a traditional Yiddish folk song).
LibraryThing member bwetmore05
This book is a great example of realistic fiction because it could happen in everyday life. A man makes all sorts of new items out of an old piece of clothing and the pattern keeps repeating. Every time something gets worn and old he makes it into something new and fresh. He uses all of his resources until he has no more, he conserves his resources very well!
The setting has a lot to do with this story because it is set in a time period and place where people are not very wealthy. I think that this setting is what makes Joseph keep reusing all of his different items of clothing. Without the setting Joseph might have started with one piece of clothing and when it got old...thrown it away!
… (more)
LibraryThing member Jeanza
Reading this book taught me to be thankful for what I have and optimistic about life. I would love to share this book with a little boy or girl probably grade 2-5 because it is an easy read. Also, I could use this book for a worship thought on character and the importance of being thankful for what you do have.
LibraryThing member Melanielooper
This book was about a man who kept making new things from a worn out overcoat. Each item kept getting smaller and smaller as they all began to wear out.

This was a great story with a moral lesson. It teaches us that you can always "make something out of nothing". It also has a great lesson about reusing something to make something new.

In the classroom, you could bring in fabric and have the kids make something out of it. You could also have them bring in an old article of clothing that would be thrown away and have them make something out of that. You could use this book to open a discussion about reusing other items in our lives instead of throwing them out.
… (more)
LibraryThing member lynzees
I enjoyed the book and especially the way Joseph was able to hold onto his overcoat throughout time as it got worn out. He shows resourcefulness and I believe kid readers will be waiting to see what he turns it into next.
LibraryThing member AlyssaSadler
This story is about a man named Joseph that owns an old overcoat. He decides to make the overcoat into a vest. Joseph keeps making the vest into smaller pieces of clothing when it gets old. He does this until he loses the last piece of the overcoat. Then he says that he decides to make a story out of it, proving you can always make something out of nothing.

I really like this story because it is totally realistic. It teaches kids to be ok with reusing clothes and not to throw useful things away.

In the Classroom, I would set up different trashcans and the students would learn to recycle things such as paper. I would also give them a piece of construction papaer, a pair of scissors, and tape and ask them to make something useful.
… (more)


Original language


Original publication date

2000-09 Scholastic
1999 new illustrations - c Simms Taback, Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin Putnam

Physical description

40 p.; 8.94 inches




Page: 3.6069 seconds