Two shipwrecked sailors confront preposterous woes with varying degrees of optimism in Einat Tsarfati's delightfully farcical picture book It Could Be Worse.
Perched upon the floating wreckage of a ship, two men survey a blue sky and calm ocean. George, smiling beatifically, appears pleased; Albertini, scoffing, shoos at a gull. As a storm cloud descends, the contrast in their attitudes becomes clear: " 'This is so unfair!' shouted Albertini. 'It could be worse...' said George." And, indeed, it does get worse, as a stream of indignities befall the friends, including ghost pirates, an ark of famished animals and a smelly, bubble-gum pink whale that swallows the men whole. After facing a threat that daunts even George, the pair reunite with their jovial and eclectic crewmates. In a satisfying about-face, Albertini assures the captain that his night may have been rough, but "trust me--it could have been much, much worse."
Tsarfati (The Neighbors) here expounds on a Yiddish folk tale (translated by Annette Appel) offering a comical take on the relative scale of misfortune. Intricate digital illustrations in candy-colored hues include impressively detailed nautical pastedowns and lend a cheerful air to the daytime travails, while velvety blues dominate the climactic nighttime scenes. Minimal text is kept to one page when it appears at all and allows the expressive full-bleed artwork to shine. Optimists and alarmists both will relate to this entertaining adventure as George and Albertini navigate laughably bad situations before finding safe harbor. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf