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Flannel Friday: Something For Nothing OR Joseph Had an Overcoat


This Flannel Friday brings me back to my roots. I come from a long line of Jewish tailors. My grandmother was a master seamstress. Her father was a tailor in the schtetl where she grew up; as was his father before him, and back, and back and back…

There are two well-known versions of this Yiddish folk song.

Something For Nothing by Phoebe Gilman

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

And according to the lovely and knowledgeable Melissa of Mel’s Desk there are several others that I will hunt down as soon as our catalog is back online (Oi vey, don’t ask! ). So far, however, I like Something for Nothing  best. When I was in library school, a classmate of mine presented this flannel board in our early literacy class, and I plotzed, because my grandmother used to sing this song in Yiddish,when I was a little girl.   She handed out the pattern in class, but she didn’t footnote it, so I don’t know where she got it. I went digging through my old school files this week so I could make it for storytime this fall.

I’ve been meaning to make it for ages, but I finally got around to it. I have told this story as a draw-and-tell (or more accurately, draw-with-a-dry-erase-and-wipe-out-and-tell. I start out with the the blanket, draw/wipe out pieces as I go. This second version is a little tricky, especially if you’re as easily distracted as I am. I recommend that version for air traffic controllers, surgeons, and other super stars. I’ll take the flannel version.

I also like to mix in some Yiddish words, and I use my mom as the main character. I’ll provide translations in parenthesis
It goes a little like this:

My mother’s Zeidi (grandpa) was a tailor in their little schtetl (village) where she grew up. When my mother was a born her made her a blankie from the finest, softed fabric in his shop. Her name was Sara, but her Zaidi called her Sarenka (which means little deer in Polish).


**My mother loved that blankie. She took it everywhere with her. As she got older her beloved blankie began to get worn around the edges, and it also started to get a bit stinky. But did that bother her? Nosiree! She loved her blankie through thick and thin, splotches and stinks. Her mother, on the other hand, didn’t like it so much, “Oi vey bubbalah. That schmate (dirty, stinky rag) is kaput! Get rid of it!”
My mother went to her Zeidi in tears. I love my blankie! Isn’t there anything you can do to save it?”

Her said took it into his shop. He layed it on the table. He turned it this way, and that way. And he said, “Sarenka, there is just enough fabric here to make a beautiful coat.”


**Repeat the same wording over from ** replacing “blankie” with:




And finally, she’ll lose the button. But after the button is gone, she has a wonderful story.

Here’s the pattern I used. Like I said, I don’t know where my classmate got it from. Also, this is a scan from my ipod, so it may be a little wonky, but you get the idea.


For more storytime/flannel ideas check out the #FlannelFriday Round up hosted by the amazing Andrea’s Rovingfiddlehead Kidlit blog.

13 thoughts on “Flannel Friday: Something For Nothing OR Joseph Had an Overcoat

  1. Pingback: Kids’ Book Club June: My Grandfather’s Coat – the hard work, thrift and conservation of our ancestors – Family Locket

  2. Pingback: Pre-K Read and Play

  3. Pingback: “Joseph had a Little Overcoat” Story Explorers Pre-k Book Club | yogibrarian

  4. Pingback: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat By Simms Taback from PJ Library | The PJ Library Blog

  5. Pingback: Flannelizable, Defined (finally!) «

  6. Thanks for sharing this idea. I was able to use it in a lesson presentation in my literacy class yesterday. I added a handkerchief at the bottom of the tie and put the button inside the hanky.

    I’ll keep close to your blog for more great ideas!

  7. This is absolutely too cool. Different and fun and I’m stealing it now. 🙂

  8. Very nice! I love the Phoebe Gilman version best as well.

  9. Pingback: Flannel Friday Round-up July 15 | rovingfiddlehead kidlit

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