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A Big Quiet House: A Yiddish Folktale from Eastern Europe
     

A Big Quiet House: A Yiddish Folktale from Eastern Europe

by Heather Forest, Susan Greenstein (Illustrator)
 

With a tiny, cluttered house, giggling children, and a snoring wife, one man can't get a good night's sleep. "If only," he thinks, "I had a big quiet house!" He throws off his covers and decides to visit the wise old woman at the edge of the village. Surely she can help him solve his problem and she does, but not without giving him some very unusual advice. This

Overview

With a tiny, cluttered house, giggling children, and a snoring wife, one man can't get a good night's sleep. "If only," he thinks, "I had a big quiet house!" He throws off his covers and decides to visit the wise old woman at the edge of the village. Surely she can help him solve his problem and she does, but not without giving him some very unusual advice. This ancient Yiddish folktale proves that quite often, nonsense makes the best sense of all. Susan Greenstein's bold illustrations—white pencil on black surface with watercolor - carry the reader through the warm interiors and peaceful nights of the shtetls of Eastern Europe. This story highlights the importance of perspective. Everyone has problems, however attitude can dramatically affect perception. It is the man who changes, and the world he perceives is transformed.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
In a rhythmic storytelling voice, Forest gives us a wonderful version of the old Yiddish folktale ‘It Could Always be Worse.’ Greenstein’s bold, colorful pictures with thick black lines are great for group sharing; they capture the broad farce and the droll characters of the shtetl setting....Shelve this with Margot Zemach’s classic 1976 version of the story.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Forest revisits the popular Yiddish folktale that also inspired Margot Zemach's classic It Could Always Be Worse (1976). A poor man who longs for a "big quiet house" where his wife's snoring and his children's giggling will not annoy him consults the wisest woman in the shtetl (most versions cast a rabbi as the advice-giver). On successive visits, she instructs him to bring first a chicken, then a goat, horse, cow, and a sheep inside his house, which of course adds to the din. Finally, when she tells him to remove the noisy animals, the man has a new appreciation for his relatively large and quiet house. Forest hams up her telling with intermittent rhymes and refrains, inviting audience participation with a number of animal noises, but she lacks Zemach's canny wit and expert pacing. Greenstein enhances the story's historical flavor by using watercolor and streaky white pencil on a black surface, resulting in a pleasingly old-fashioned, woodcut-like appearance. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-A flawed retelling of a familiar folktale. When a peasant complains that his small hut is too crowded and noisy, an old woman (in traditional versions, a wise man) tells him to bring first one animal, then another, and then still more into the house. Finally, when the poor man is driven to distraction by the crowd and the noise, she tells him to remove all the animals. The peasant is then delighted to find that his once-crowded hut is now roomy and filled only with the joyful sounds of his family. Forest's narrative slips in and out of rhyme to the extent that the inconsistency becomes annoying. Some of the couplets flow naturally, while some seem forced. The meter is erratic as well. Greenstein's bright, colorful scratchboard illustrations add a delightfully humorous tone to the piece, although the consistency of her depiction of the small town will not bear close scrutiny. Collections that already have Margot Zemach's It Could Always Be Worse (Farrar, 1990), Marilyn Hirsh's Could Anything Be Worse? (Holiday, 1974; o.p.), or Joanna Cole's It's Too Noisy! (HarperCollins, 1989) can pass on this one.-Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780874834628
Publisher:
August House Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
12/28/2005
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
1,159,007
Product dimensions:
8.44(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.45(d)
Lexile:
AD610L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Heather Forest Bio:Heather Forest's unique minstrel style of telling stories blends her original music, folk guitar, poetry, and prose along with song and the spoken word to give her stories an uncommon warmth and charm. She has toured widely performing her repertoire of world folktales for the past thirty years to theatres, major storytelling festivals, schools and conferences throughout the world. Heather’s books have received many prestigious awards including the Children’s Choice Award, Parent’s Choice Award, CCBC Choices, ABC Best Books for Children, Best Children’s Books of the Year, Book Sense Winter Children’s Picks, and the National Parenting Publication Awards (NAPPA) among others. Heather is currently working on her tenth book with August House, a collection of ancient and epic tales.
Ms. Forest holds a Master's Degree in Storytelling and she is a recipient of the Circle of Excellence Award presented by the National Storytelling Network. Her many performance credits include The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., The National Storytelling Festival, The Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, Tales of Graz Festival in Austria, the Sidmouth International Festival in England and the Glistening Waters Storytelling Festival in New Zealand.

Susan Greenstein Bio:
Susan Greenstein grew up in Astoria, Queens and has lived and worked in Brooklyn since she was a college student at Pratt Institute where she received her BFA in Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting, and went on to receive her MSE from Queens College. Susan spent the following 12 years illustrating children’s' books and articles for newspapers and magazines.
Following the birth of her daughter, Susan began to teach art to young children through the organization, Studio in A School. She has been teaching both elementary and high school students at Brooklyn Friends School and found teaching keeps her excitement and wonder of art fresh. She also finds her young students' enthusiasm is contagious and inspires her work.
When she is not teaching, Susan dedicates her to time painting with watercolors and drawing mostly on site around New York City. She is intrigued by the textures and patterns found in community gardens as well as in the local architecture. The Highline, in Manhattan, has become a favorite site. She finds that it provides the perfect balance between architecture and plant life and how they weave themselves together. In the summer, Susan spends time in New Hampshire studying and painting a very different type of landscape and light.
Susan lives with her husband Phil who is also a painter, their daughter, Gina and their cat Kalo.

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