About the Holiday
Today is one of those holidays that is up to interpretation. While April 3, 1823 was the birthday of notoriously corrupt politician William M. (“Boss”) Tweed, it’s not clear why commemorating that date would be desirable—expect perhaps as a timely cautionary tale. Instead most like to celebrate the natty, multi-hewed fabric embraced by professors and other fashionable folk world-wide. Tweed originated as a hand-woven fabric in Scotland. The earthy tones mirrored the Scottish landscape, and, like tartans, could distinguish a particular estate or family based on the sheep providing the wool and the pattern.
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
By Simms Taback
Joseph’s coat was old and worn with patches overlapping patches all along the bottom. It was time to do something about it, so Joseph, “made a jacket out of it and went to the fair.” Time went by and that sporty jacket also “got old and worn.” The hem was frayed, the cuffs were torn, and patches overlapped patches all up and down the sleeves, so Joseph “made a vest out of it and danced at his nephew’s wedding.”
Years past, and that little vest suffered the same fate as the coat and the jacket. But Joseph was clever. The vest became a scarf that he wore to sing in the men’s chorus. Wicked weather took its toll, and eventually the scarf had more holes than material. With careful cutting, the scarf made a jaunty tie to wear when visiting his sister.
You know how it goes with ties. The edges grew threadbare and stains marred the pattern. Joseph’s animals considered it a goner, but Joseph had another idea. He made a handkerchief to accessorize his favorite shirt and enjoyed a “glass of hot tea with lemon.” That same handkerchief also helped Joseph whenever he had a cold, and in time it “got old and worn.”
Joseph had one more idea. “He made a button out of it and used it to fasten his suspenders.” One day, Joseph lost his button, and even though he searched everywhere, he couldn’t find it. “Now he had nothing. So Joseph made a book about it. Which shows…you can always make something out of nothing.”
Classic tweed calls for a classic book, and Simms Taback’s tale of a master recycler will have kids in stitches. Not only is the story clever, but ingeniously hidden die-cut holes in the pages let readers guess—and then follow—each iteration as the original coat gets smaller and smaller. The bold, multimedia illustrations are full of humor, history, and tradition and give kids and adults lots to look at and talk about. Children will love helping Joseph look for his button under the watchful gaze of Sigmund Freud, whose wide-eyed portrait seems to be taking in all the action. The final “moral to the story” is inspired and inspiring.
Originally published in 1999, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat remains fresh and innovative for today’s young readers. The book was a favorite of my own kids, and would be a much-asked-for addition to home libraries.
Ages 3 – 7
Viking Books for Young Readers, 1999 (hardcover) | ISBN 978-0670878550
Scholastic, 2003 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0439217316
National Tweed Day Activity
Pin the Button on the Coat Game
Pin the Button on the Coat is a fun game you can make yourself and play anytime! It’s great for a button-themed party or on any day that you’re holed up and wanting something to do! The game is played like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” and the object is to get the buttons lined up as close to the center of the coat as possible. Have fun!
- Fleece or felt inyour choice of colors, 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” to make the coat and smaller pieces or scraps to make buttons
- Fabric glue
- Black marker
- Clothes hanger
- Clothes pins
- Cut out the body of the coat, sleeves, and collar
- With the fabric glue, attach the sleeves to the edge of the coat, and the collar to the top of the coat.
- Let dry
- Cut circles for buttons from the other colors of fleece or felt, as many as you need
- With the marker make dots to represent holes in the buttons
- When the glue on the coat is dry, attach it to the clothes hanger with the clothespins
Picture Book Review