It Could Always Be Worse is a good book to read with young children when the temptation to self-pity is high. (For us, that was last week when the stomach bug made its way through the family over Thanksgiving!)

Humor can be an effective way to drive a needed message home without causing offense, and this Yiddish folk tale accomplishes exactly that.

A poor unfortunate man, his wife, and six children live in a small hut and are always getting on each other’s nerves in their confined space.

Desperate for help, the poor man asks the Rabbi for advice. The Rabbi has an odd suggestion – he tells the man to add his animals to their home one by one, until one hilarious catastrophe after another, the situation becomes “worse than a nightmare.”

When the poor unfortunate man can stand it no longer, the Rabbi suggests moving the animals out, and the family realizes how good they actually have it. Their home no longer feels too small. In fact, it feels quite roomy and peaceful, with plenty of room to breathe!

This book opens the door to a great discussion on contentment. There is always someone who has it worse than we do. As Charles Spurgeon put it, “If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

Colorfully illustrated and humorously written, It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach is recommended as a read aloud for children ages 6 and under, but all ages will benefit from the lesson conveyed.