It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale

by Margot Zemach

Book, 1976



Call number

E 500 ZEM



New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976.


Unable to stand his overcrowded and noisy home any longer, a poor man goes to the Rabbi for advice.

User reviews

LibraryThing member eay2206
I loved the illustrations of this book. This book is a Caldecot winner. It teaches you a wonderful moral lesson.

Reading level is 3 and up.
LibraryThing member cnolasco
Zemach, M. (1990). It Could Always Be Worse. Sunburst.

It Could Always Be Worse is a Yiddish folk tale retold by Margot Zemach. It is a cute story of a poor man who lives in a small hut with his wife, his mother, and his six children. When things become too crowded in his hut, he seeks help from the
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Rabbi. The Rabbi instructs him to place all of his farm animals into his already crowded hut. In the end, the lesson is just what the title says: things could always be worse. The illustrations are cartoon-like, with some of the watercolors spreading out past the lines. Some of the illustrations feel chaotic, but it is probably to mimic what the characters are feeling in the small hut. A fast read that teaches children to be satisfied with what they have.
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LibraryThing member IEliasson
It Could Always Be Worse is Margot Zemach’s uproarious retelling of a Yiddish noodlehead folktale. The father of a family of nine goes to his Rabbi complaining of the overcrowded conditions in his small hut home. Over a series of weeks, the rabbi advises him to bring increasingly larger animals
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into his home. The bewildered father follows the rabbi’s advice until all his animals are living with his family in the hut. After all, the father returns to the rabbi shrieking that the end of the world has come and that his home is worse than a nightmare; the rabbi tells him to remove all the animals. At long last, the father returns to the beleaguered rabbi to exclaim, “you have made life sweet for me. With just my family in the hut, it’s so quiet, so roomy, so peaceful . . . What a pleasure!” Zemach’s illustrations amusingly convey the muddled and boisterous deterioration of the household, retelling the parable of thankfulness with jocularity and acumen.
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LibraryThing member Mmarcel2011
The farmer in It could always be worse, is so distraught about all the chaos in his home. The text simply states that it was chaotic, but the pictures show you so much more into why this farmer is so distraught. With the illustrations, the reader can feel what it's like in him home and sympathize
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with him. The ending shows such a relief and the final picture shows so much understanding, that everyone should appreciate what they have.
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LibraryThing member cmullenix
The story is about a man that lives with his mother, wife and six children. He thinks that life couldn't get any worse. He seeks out a local Rabbi who gives him advise to keep adding animals into the household. Slowly, after several attempts at following the Ribbi's suggestions, the man comes to
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realize that things could always be worse. At the end he is relieved to be living in a one room hut with his wife, mother and six kids.

This is a great story to teach children about being happy with what you have. I always try to show my children to look on the bright side of every situation and sometimes that is hard for kids to see. This story makes it easy to illustrate that life could be worse.

In the classroom I could read the book and then line the children up. I would start by saying something like "I have a small piece of pizza". The first child in line add something to it that makes the situation worse. After we complete the line we would start over, except this time each child has add something to make the situation better.
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LibraryThing member KristalKangasHanes
This humorous folk tale teaches the art of being content in the place one is. Feeling overcrowded in his small home which is filled with his extended family a peasant seeks the wise advice of his Rabbi. In successive steps the Rabbi slowly counsels the man to fill his home to the brim with farm
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animals. When the peasant man can take no more chaos he is then instructed to remove the animals. With the animals absent the family all settles in to a more peaceful existence. Our peasant man learns that with his family as the only occupants of his tiny home it is a roomy peaceful and pleasant place. The illustrations are pen and ink with water coloring. This is a charming old tale, however is is biased toward males.
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LibraryThing member lvalido
The title of this book ensured that anyone reading this would know the end result from the beginning. There is a nice lesson to take into account and sometimes everyone can use a little reminder to be thankful that things aren't worse. The simplicity of the story line will allow very young children
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to understand the story's message.
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LibraryThing member ekettner
A hilarious little folktale! A man is not content with his large family and small hut, so the Rabbi teaches him a lesson in gratefulness. I love that the phrase "it could always be worse" is never actually used in the story. The moral is evident, but never overtly stated. A very wise and amusing
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story. A good lesson for any age.
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LibraryThing member dms02
A great visual representation of the adage "it could always be worse". A reminder tale to adults and an easy way for children to understand being thankful for your current situation.
LibraryThing member LizeGarber
I really liked this book, and found its humor delightful. However, I am not sure how students would react to some of the older language. The moral of the story is quite nice, helping to teach kids that they should be grateful for the things they do have in their lives. I think students who enjoy
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folk tales and old style humor will have a great experience reading this book!
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LibraryThing member wichitafriendsschool
Once upon a time a poor unfortunate man lived with his mother, his wife, and his six children in a one-room hut. Because they were so crowded, the children often fought and the man and his wife argued. When the poor man was unable to stand it any longer, he ran to the Rabbi for help. As he follows
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the Rabbi's unlikely advice, the poor man's life goes from bad to worse, with increasingly uproarious results. In his little hut, silly calamity follows foolish catastrophe, all memorably depicted in full-color illustrations that are both funnier and lovelier than any this distinguished artist has done in the past.
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Original publication date



0374436363 / 9780374436360

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