Taback, Simms. 1999. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. New York: Pengion Group. ISBN 0670878553
Joseph has a colorful overcoat that eventually wears out. Intsead of wasting the material, Joseph keeps creating new garments out of the leftover material, including a vest, tie, and finally a button. Through each new garment, Joseph participates in a fun activity like a trip to his sister's and the men's choir performance. When the botton is lost, Joseph writes a story about the series of events, proving that something can be created out of nothing.
3. Critical Analysis:
The first time I read the book, I thought it was inane and silly. It seemed to be a bland topic and a jump in thoughts from an overcoat to a book. After I read it a few more times, I began to see the cadence mentioned in the review from the School Library Journal although I still think of the topic to be quite blaze. The redeeming qualities of the book are the cut outs that give hints of the next garment Joseph will make out of the overcoat and the illustrations.
The illustrations are awesome. The expressionism of the pictures add to the story. Joseph is seen in the pictures as a fun and colorful guy. While the words are redundant, the pictures bring the story to life by filling in the blanks between the words. While the words say that Joseph danced at his nephew's wedding, the pictures show us how the bride is wearing a mismatched patchwork dress instead of the typical white dress. It is these vibrant and rich illustrations that balance out the simple sentences of the narrative.
I read the book to my six-year-old neice and my three-year-old nephew. They both loved the illustrations and kept talking about the people's colorful clothes. My nephew said the characters looked silly, and my niece's first response was,"Why didn't he just get a new coat?" This comment gave us a springboard into discussing why it is important not to waste.
The following review is from the School Library Journal:
"Taback adapted this tale from a Yiddish folk song and the music and English lyrics are appended. The rhythm and repetition make it a perfect storytime read-aloud."-Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This book could be used in elementary schools for a discussion about not wasting. It is also a fun example of expressionism that could be used in the middle school art classroom.