Driven nearly meshugga from trying to live in a shoe with 13 kids, Lou Greenbaum begs the rabbi for help.
The multistory boot and the rabbi’s house, constructed of stacked-up books, add a folkloric air to this retelling of an old tale probably best known from Margo Zemach’s classic It Could Always Be Worse (there is no source note). Adding some postmodern visual zest, Mottram dresses his figures in hoodies, onesies, and like modern garb. Weary of his own kvetching at the crowded conditions, Lou consults with the rabbi—and at his suggestion brings home two chickens, three goats, and a pair of geese in succession. Oy vey indeed: “My nerves are shot and the shoe is stinking. / Rabbi or not, what were you thinking?” Finally the rabbi instructs Lou to let the livestock out, and though that doesn’t exactly bring domestic peace and quiet, even despite “a snoring wife; / with love in the shoe it’s a bustling life!” Adding to that cheap shot, Mrs. Greenbaum is the only member of the uniformly light-skinned clan who doesn’t rate a first name. At least she’s not old, nursery rhyme notwithstanding. Also, unlike her husband, she’s generally calm and smiling amid the ruckus, and her strawberry-blonde bob cut accounts for the children’s wide range of hair colors.
A fresh take on an often told but very funny story, and the shoe is a clever addition. But give the mother a name already! (Picture book/folk tale. 5-9)