Blogger Mary R. Voors

Reuse. Recycle.

Today is a day which is marked by remembering all we have for which we are thankful. Sometimes this can be difficult, particularly when many of us are increasingly being forced to tighten our belts.

Yesterday I used a traditional Jewish folktale as part of our Thanksgiving storytime. This story, commonly called “Joseph the Tailor,” has been retold in picture book format by a variety of authors. Each story retains the same basic plot outline. A beloved article of clothing is worn and worn and worn… until it’s all worn out. Sadly, it seems like the item must be thrown out, but then the tailor realizes that with just a bit of sewing, a new, beautiful item can be created. Coat… jacket…. vest… tie… cap… button… and finally, the tailor realizes that there’s just enough good material left to make a story.

With its lyrical verse and large format pictures, Bit by Bit, written by Steve Sanfield and illustrated by Susan Gaber is a wonderful picture book version of this story to read aloud.


Changing the story a bit, Phoebe Gilman presents Something from Nothing, the story of a loving grandfather who makes a blanket for his grandchild. As it becomes tattered, he uses his talent as a tailor to transform it into a different useful object.

And I must mention this edition! With bright, bold pictures and die-cut holes, Simms Taback won the Caldecott Medal for his version titled Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.


Wonderful as these picturebooks are, the rhythm and the repetition of the folktale make it a perfect story to tell rather than read.

Yesterday at storytime, I booktalked different picture book versions of this folktale, and then, thanks to the incredible artistic talents of one of our Children’s Services’ staff — I’m talking about you Mr. Eric Tarr! — I shared the story as a “fold-and-tell.” With pictures printed on both sides of a large (11 X 17) piece of paper, I could tell the story and fold it to show the progression of key elements.

Coat… Jacket… Vest… Cap… Tie… Button… Story!

Fold and Tell version of The Tailor (side 1)


Side 2 - Fold the paper to reveal each portion of the story

This story is a sure-fire winner with kids. It also leads into great discussions of recycling, as well as how something that at first seems ready to be thrown out can be rejuvenated and enhanced.

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you can take a moment in your day and think about how you can make something you have even better.


  1. Linda M.

    I’ve been using the version from “Stories to Play With” by Hiroko Fujita for years. It has always been a big hit with groups of all ages.

  2. Rudolf

    Dear Mrs. Voors,

    I’m from the Netherlands and I would like to use the drawings (fold and tell version of the tailor) on your website in the workshops I give to teachers. Is that permitted?

    greetings, Rudolf

    1. Mary Voors Post author

      Absolutely! Feel free to share. It’s a great story. (And, thanks for asking.)

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