Joseph's Grandpa can fix anything. He can turn a worn out blanket into a wonderful jacket, a vest into a Sabbath tie, a ragged handkerchief into a brand-new button, but when the button is lost, what's to be done? Even Grandpa can't make something from nothing.

This story is adapted from an old Jewish folksong about a tailor who makes his old coat into a jacket, vest, tie, and finally a button. When the button is lost, he makes up a song about it all. I thought, "That's exactly what I do! Anything that happens can be turned into a story." So I decided to make the song into a picture book. But a picture book is for children and there wasn't any child in the song. "I can fix that." I said. "I'll just make the tailor into a Grandpa. Then he can make all these things for his grandson, Joseph. But, would the first thing he made be a coat? No. It would be a blanket."

If you read the words without the pictures, they could take place anywhere, anytime. It was only when I started doing the drawings, that I decided to set it back in the olden days, in a Jewish village like the one the song came from. The book then took on a whole new dimension for me. It became a way of remembering the world of my Grandparents.
The people in the streets and marketplace are actual portraits of people who lived in the shtetl.
My Great Grandfather was a poor, Jewish tailor.
While I was drawing, I kept being bothered by the fact that the button was lost. The kid in me, didn't care if it was all turned into a story. That kid wanted to know where the button was. This led me to add the picture story of the mice who live beneath the floorboards, so that they could find the button.
Joseph's little sister looks like my daughter, Ingrid did when she was a baby. Grandpa made her a wonderful blanket too. When Joseph loses his button she offers him her dolly but not her special blanket.
Something From Nothing is being made into an animated special by Portfolio Entertainment.

Oliver, the parrot from Grandma & the Pirates
A picture of the golden apple
A picture of one of Jillian's wonderful pigs
A picture from The Balloon Tree
Little blue Ben
One of Jillian's games being played

Something From Nothing. Scholastic Canada, 1992; as Un merveilleux petit rien! translated by Marie-Andree Clermont, Scholastic Canada, 1992
ISBN 0-590-73802-X

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