Book Reviews-Children's Lit
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These three books represent a wide range of reading material: A charming Yiddish folktale, a funny modern parable, and a thought-provoking modern fantasy.

I am indebted to my daughter, Shoshannah, for these reviews. Any errors are mine.

It Could Always Be Worse
Margot Zemach
Reading Level: 2-7
Interest Level: 3-12
Caldecott Award

Theme: Being happy with what you have; Humor; dealing with ridiculous situations.


A numbskull, tired of living with a family that has a house that is too small for the number of people in his family, goes to see the local Rabbi. This man tells the Rabbi that he and his wife argue; his children are noisy and fight with each other, and he wants to know what he can do to remedy the situation.

The Rabbi asks him if he has any chickens, when the numbskull says, "Yes," the Rabbi tells him to take the chickens into his house. After the numbskull adds the chickens to those living in his household, he returns to the Rabbi, telling him that it isn't helping to add the chickens to his home.

The Rabbi tells him to keep adding animals to the house, until the man can't take it any more and goes running to the Rabbi to tell him / so. The Rabbi then tells the numbskull to take all the animals out. The numbskull then returns to tell the Rabbi how pleasant life is with his family.

The illustrations are charming. Using watercolors to bring the story to life in the illustrations, Margot Zemach, brings out the humor and chaos that the story implies. The Jewish culture of the late 1800's early 1900's is captured in the illustrations.

The illustrations follow the theme ofthe story, bringing out the humor and idiocy of what this numbskull does to restore/discover the harmony in his household. These illustrations are delightful and fun to look at in the telling of the story. This story helps a child to discover the wisdom and culture of the Jewish v culture. There is depth and insight to how the Jewish people live and raise their families. ~

Children today can learn and enjoy, for that is what this story has at its core, to make the reader/listener laugh.

The language of the story is not limited, or controlled. There is quite a bit of variety and expression within the vocabulary used to write the story from the original Yiddish form. The language gives the story authenticity without completely making the story American or English with the use of the English language.

Reviewed by Shoshannah Dickerson

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The Snake
Bernard Waber
Reading Level: K-7
Interest Level: 5-12

Theme: Always plan ahead.


The illustrations are in Colored pencil. The style of the illustrations, although, representational, have an abstract edge. The picture is obviously a snake, but the snake is drawn more as a cartoon, than as real.

The plot of the illustrations appeal to children. The snake grows and grows as the journey begins and the head disappears. Then as the end comes in sight the snake keeps going and all the reader sees is the body and then the tail and then everything disappears. It is a nice development of suspense for the reader in a completely non-threatening setting.

The style of the illustrations complements the mood and style of the text. The story line is somewhat silly and goofy, but has a point at the end. The same could be said ofthe illustrations. They are also goofy and silly, and not quite real, but a good point is made at the end. "Always plan ahead."

Reviewed by Shoshannah Dickerson

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The Giver
Lois Lowry
Genre: Modern Fantasy
Reading Level: 6-7
Interest Level: 11-16

Themes: Courage and bravery.


Jonas lives in a community that is strictly controlled by all of its members. Pain is quickly stopped with pills; "stirrings" are stopped with pills; and people who are too old, too young, a duplicate, or ask for, are released, killed.

Children are allowed to be children, although, strict rules are followed for each age, until they reach the age of 12. After twelve, age is forgotten and the person devotes themselves to the vocation selected for them by the elders.

Jonas, at the age of twelve, is selected to be a receiver. Jonas then discovers that he can see things that other people cannot, and that his assignment is to receive the memories passed down through the generations, for that is his vocation. To remember his communities past, past memories, past ideas, past events­ wars, snow, color. As Jonas receives these memories he and the Giver, the person assigned to receive memories before him, come up with a plan that would start to place the memories, no matter how painful, back on the community.

In the meantime Jonas learns that he lives in a community full of lies and death, and must short circuit the plan he and the Giver have come up with to save a little baby he has come to love.

Reviewed by Shoshannah Dickerson

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