Simms Taback's 'Joseph Had a Little Overcoat'

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is the popular Caldecott Medal Book written and illustrated by Simms Taback. In this beloved Jewish folktale, Joseph’s old and tattered coat is recycled and takes the form of increasingly small articles of clothing.

Since the loss of Mr. Taback to pancreatic cancer in December 2011, Jewish educators and parents have been remiss if not to recognize Taback’s contribution to the Jewish children’s literature.

Originally published 1977, Taback’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat has become one of the most well-known Jewish children’s books in North America. As such, there has developed on the Internet a deep, rich collection of supporting materials for parent and educators.

Below is just a small sampling of the thousands of Joseph-related Web links available to PJ families:

  • Joseph’s Pattern — This post from Storytiming, a children librarian’s blog, provides a 2-dimensional paper/cloth pattern for that will show a child reader/listener how Joseph was able to make smaller pieces of clothing from larger ones.

  • PBS Teacher Resources — This webpage from PBS Kids presents a list of links that includes a teacher’s guide, flash cards, story pages, and related online games.

  • Repair, Reuse, Recycle Activity — The organization Learning to Give provides this handout and detailed activity guide for helping children understand and apply the ways Joseph recycled by salvaging his overcoat and reusing its materials.

  • Scholastic Lesson Plan — Book publisher Scholastic Books offers this lesson plan free on its website.

It’s always fun to watch and sing. Consider allowing your children to watch this song and video inspired by a Yiddish song and Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (it's a good opportunity to introduce children to Klezmer music, too!):


Want to know more about Caldecott Medal-winning author Simms Taback? presents a QA with the creator of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.

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