cover image Such a Library! A Yiddish Folktale Re-imagined

Such a Library! A Yiddish Folktale Re-imagined

Jill Ross Nadler, illus. by Esther van den Berg. Intergalatic Afikoman, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-951365-02-8

Nadler, making her picture book debut, and van den Berg (Good Night and Sleep Tight) base their comic fantasy on a classic Yiddish folktale known as “It Could Always Be Worse.” The library is supposed to be Stevie’s quiet refuge from a home filled with “three brothers, two sisters,/ and a baby,” but he can’t seem to find any peace. “Pages are turning,/ keys are tapping,/ and the storyteller/ is once upon a timing,” he complains to Miss Understood, the librarian. “It’s like a party in here.” Her response is nothing short of extraordinary: she opens a book, welcoming balloons and party fixings. When Stevie then likens the library to a zoo and a circus, things really get crazy. As the good-natured, buoyant cartoons chronicle a cumulative comic cacophony with subtle nods to the story’s shtetl origins, the text fills up with a growing list of onomatopoeia—those reading aloud will be called on to make sounds ranging from book pages turning (“whoosh, swoosh”) to the sound of a clown car horn (“ah-ooo-gah”). Stevie, for his part, learns two important lessons: he didn’t know how good he had it, and librarians are indeed magic. Ages 3–8. [em](June) [/em]