HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: “Could Be Worse!”
Author and Illustrator: James Stevenson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, reissued 1987
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 4 – 8
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Stevenson, James. “Could Be Worse!” (published in 1977 by Greenwillow Books, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10019; republished in 1987 by Mulberry Paperback Books, New York City, NY). Mary Ann and Louie are at Grandpa’s house where things are always boring. Grandpa always has the same thing for breakfast every day. And no matter what happens, whether Mary Ann finds that the dog has eaten a sofa cushion or Louie gets a splinter in his finger, Grandpa always says the same thing. “Could be worse!” Then one day, Grandpa tells them that while he was asleep during the night he was pulled out of bed by a huge bird which dropped him in the mountains where he was attacked by an abominable snowman and then got lost in the desert. How do Mary Ann and Louie react that exciting story? What will they say to it?
Not everyone likes this Reading Rainbow Book. One reviewer wrote, “My children and I did NOT like this book. Waste of money and waste of time reading it. It was just plain silly. I can’t imagine how anyone would really enjoy this one and I’m surprised that it made it to Reading Rainbow. There’s really no story line, no plot. Just silly. Not even funny.” To each his own, but some people just don’t have much of an imagination. Everything has to be realistically literal for them. I agree that the tale is silly, but I disagree with the claim that it is not funny. Silly can sometimes be fun. Now, I don’t care for stupid. But “Could Be Worse!” is not stupid. “Just silly.”
I rather agree with another reviewer who said, “While this is a children’s book, I have given it as a gift to adult friends and family who have endured surgeries requiring long recuperation. It not only gives them a smile, but helps them think about keeping things in perspective. I think it’s a good idea to keep a copy on hand, in case a friend is hospitalized. Nice alternative to a get-well card!” James Stevenson (1929–2017) was an American author and illustrator of over 100 children’s books, who was also an op-ed contributor to the New York Times, where his popular column, “Lost and Found New York,” appeared regularly in the newspaper, and on the staff of The New Yorker for more than three decades. His work includes 2,000 cartoons and 80 covers, as well as reporting and fiction.