Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Common Sense Media says

Vibrantly illustrated and simply patterned story.




Caldecott Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Simms Taback
Illustrator:Simms Taback
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:January 1, 1999
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

This review of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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