Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Book review by
Lisa Fratt, Common Sense Media
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat Book Poster Image
Vibrantly illustrated and simply patterned story.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that mixed-media illustrations provide an eye-catching backdrop to the low-key story.

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What's the story?

Poor Joseph! His beloved overcoat is old and worn. Clever Joseph! He continues to find ways to ingeniously reinvent his tattered attire. Although Joseph's clothing is patched and worn, the cheerful, vibrant illustrations reveal the true riches in this Yiddish farmer's life.


Is it any good?

On first reading, JOSEPH HAD A LITTLE OVERCOAT is a vibrantly illustrated and simply patterned story. When you read it again (and the younger crowd will repeatedly request that you do), it will nudge its way onto your list of favorites. The text is sparse, but it faithfully depicts the day-to-day life of a Yiddish farmer. And Joseph displays heroic determination in his quest to save his overcoat, looking life's crises in the eye and outmaneuvering them with a healthy dose of thrift and a needle and thread.

Simms Taback is a master of collage: Dozens of photographed faces peek out of an apartment scene, and painted plants are topped with real vegetables. Kids find the clothing-shaped, die-cut holes irresistible; they'll flip between pages to determine what mystery object lies behind the hole. Taback doesn't neglect grown-up readers -- hints of Freud and The Fiddler on the Roof promise to tickle your fancy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about finding new ways to use old things. How can you put seemingly worn-out things to new uses -- making something out of nothing? What do you do with clothes that are too small or falling to pieces?

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