Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is the title of a 1999 book by Simms Taback that won the 2000 Caldecott Medal.[1][2] The main character is Joseph, a 40-something Jewish farmer, who has a little striped overcoat. When it is old, Joseph makes it into a little jacket and so on until he makes it into a button. Then Joseph loses the button and makes a story out of it. The moral of the story is "you can always make something out of nothing."

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat cover
AuthorSimms Taback
IllustratorSimms Taback
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's picture book
PublisherViking Press
Publication date
398.2 E 21
LC ClassPZ7.T1115 Jo 1999

The story has die-cut illustrations consisting of watercolor and collage.[3] Readers of the story say that Joseph greatly resembles Simms Taback.[4]

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is based on the Yiddish song I Had a Little Overcoat.[3][5] Barbara Kiefer, chair of the Caldecott Award Committee, commented, "Vibrant rich colors, playful details, and skillfully-placed die cuts contribute to the books raucous merriment that takes this Yiddish folk song far beyond the simple words."[1]

The story is read on the children's show Between the Lions.[6]


Joseph Had a Little Overcoat has been favorably received. Publishers Weekly found "With its effective repetition and an abundance of visual humor, this is tailor-made for reading aloud."[7] while Common Sense Media wrote "it will nudge its way onto your list of favorites."[8] Booklist called it "a true example of accomplished bookmaking" and "Taback's mixed-media and collage illustrations are alive with warmth, humor, and humanity. Their colors are festive yet controlled, and they are filled with homey clutter, interesting characters, and a million details to bring children back again and again."[9] The School Library Journal described it as "A book bursting at the seams with ingenuity and creative spirit." [9]


Preceded by
Snowflake Bentley
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by
So You Want to Be President?

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