Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Caldecott Medal Book)
Joseph had a little overcoat, but it Used to be 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 may be able to use the die-cut holes to guess what Joseph will be making next from his amazing overcoat, even as they laugh at the bold, cheerful artwork and learn that you’ll at all times make something, even out of nothing.
When Joseph’s favorite overcoat gets old and worn, he makes a jacket out of it. When the jacket is more patches than jacket, Joseph turns it into a vest. When the vest’s number is up, Joseph makes a scarf. This thrifty industry continues until there’s nothing left of the original garment. But clever Joseph manages to make something out of nothing! (And that’s the reason the foreshadowed moral of the story.)
In today’s throwaway world, Joseph’s old-fashioned frugality is a welcome change. Based on a Yiddish song from Simms Taback’s youth (lyrics and music reproduced on the last page), the book is filled with rhythms and arresting colors as a way to delight every reader. As an increasing number of holes appear in Joseph’s coat, die-cut holes appear on the pages, hinting at each next manifestation. The illustrations are striking, created with gouache, watercolor, collage, pencil, and ink. Every inch of space is crammed with fanciful, funny details, such as the headline on a discarded newspaper: “Fiddler on Roof Falls off Roof.” Taback, esteemed author of the Caldecott Honor-winning There Used to be an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and the classic Too Much Noise, has produced a picture book that may be as well turned out as its dapper hero. (Ages 4 to 8) –Emilie Coulter
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