Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Hardcover) by Simms Taback; Viking Juvenile, 1999. ISBN: 978-0670878553. pp: 32.
Ages: 4-8, gr: preschool - 3
Originally published by Random House Childrens Books (October 1977) ISBN: 0394832515. pp: 34.
(Paperback) Puffin Books, December 30, 2006, .ISBN: 978-0140563580


Joseph had a little overcoat, but it got old and worn, so he made a vest out of it. Joseph had a little vest, but it got old and worn. Joseph continues to make smaller and smaller items from the remnants of his overcoat. He ends up with a button, which he loses. He thinks he has nothing, until he writes this story.


  1. To the Teacher — Have students brainstorm other items with which they could begin. Then have them brainstorm items they could make from this original. After brainstorming several ideas together, have students write their own story, following the style of Simms Taback.

  2. What is Joseph’s occupation? Why do you think so?

  3. You can find the name Sholom Aleikem on many of the pages.
    • (younger) How many references to Sholom Aleikem do you find in Joseph Had a Little Overcoat?
    • (older) What is the connection of Sholom Aleikem with Joseph Had a Little Overcoat?
  4. Find a discarded article of clothing and make it into something else that is useful.

  5. Find the page that refers to Fiddler on the Roof. Find a picture of the Fiddler character in the movie or play. Compare the Fiddler character to Joseph.

  6. The artwork for Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is mixed-media: gouache, watercolor, collage, pencil, and ink, highlighted by the die-cuts. Describe each of these techniques.

  7. Name the animals watching Joseph at his work.

  8. Sing the Yiddish folksong that is the basis for the story.

  9. Simms Taback might have used himself as the model for the end of the story. What similarities do you find between Simms Taback and Joseph?

  10. Vocabulary words that could be used with this story are: recycling, ingenuity, perseverance. Define each and tell how it fits Joseph.

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Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
Accelerated Reader: Quiz #1205 EN or 35829 EN; Book Level 1.7; Points= 0.5
Book Adventure (Sylvan): Quiz Level 1
Reading Counts: Level 1.9; Points= 1.0
Lexile Level 380
Guided Reading Level I
DRA 16
word count= 182
Flesch/Kincaid 3.2

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