cover image A Big Quiet House

A Big Quiet House

Heather Forest. August House Publishers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-87483-462-8

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.)