Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback – Book Review for TWU Course

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Taback, Simms. 1999. JOSEPH HAD A LITTLE OVERCOAT. New York, NY: Viking. ISBN 9780670878550. 

PLOT SUMMARY
Joseph has an overcoat that gets worn and is repurposed into a jacket.  As each item he creates from the original overcoat wears, he finds a new something to create until he loses his final creation.  But, the story isn’t over yet!

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

A sight for the eyes, this book is full of illustrations done in watercolor, Goache, pencil, ink and collage.  From the opening pages, there is much to see and read and explore.  Among the illustrations are bits of writing occasionally, sometimes humorous.  The title page has a little handwritten blurb that says (and there’s a moral, too!)  Some of the collage is of newspaper pages, letters or sayings upon the walls.  The abundance of detail on each illustration makes it a fun book to read and explore, leaving it open to lots of speculation and conversation.  Also in many of the illustrations are die cut cutouts, changing each piece of clothing as he alters it.

The story obviously takes place in an earlier time in history as evidenced by the clothing and furniture in the pictures, and in a different culture as well.  By reading all the little letters and newspapers layring around in the illustrations, it becomes apparent that this is the Jewish culture in Poland.  If you don’t take time to observe all the little details, that may never become apparent.

The writing is repetitive so that children anticipate and become involved in the story, and yes, as the author states on the title page, there is a moral.

REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
Booklist:  “true example of accomplished bookmaking–from the typography and the endpapers to the bar code, set in what appears to be a patch of fabric. 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. “

Publishers Weekly: “With its effective repetition and an abundance of visual humor, this is tailor-made for reading aloud.”

CONNECTIONS

Pairing this book with his THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY, which also has the die cut cutouts.  This feature keeps the story focused.

This story could lead into art projects such as collage work, or it could be paired for a lesson on stories with morals and a creative writing assignement to create a story with a moral.

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