Review: Worse and Worse on Noah's Ark

Worse and Worse on Noah's Ark by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Vivian Mineker

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer

There is no more perfect Biblical story for these times than that of Noah’s Ark. Leslie Kimmelman’s take on it, Worse and Worse on Noah’s Ark, is perfect for sharing with stir-crazy kids who won’t stop arguing and kvetching, just like the creatures (human and otherwise) aboard the ark. Its message is not subtle - working together and taking care of each other can improve even the worst situation - but Kimmelman delivers it with charm.

Kimmelman also sneaks another lesson about Jewish values into Worse and Worse. When the colorful scarlet macaws and peacocks make fun of the merely dichromatic penguins and zebras, Noah gently points out that, “We’re all God’s creatures… we’re all equally beautiful in God’s eyes.” Kimmelman also brings out the aspect of predators and prey being stuck together on board the ark, something I, at least, had never thought of. (So remind your children they are lucky not to be quarantined with hungry lions and bears!) She also puts the animals’ unique qualities to good use - my favorite solution is when the elephants vacuum up the water!

A note from the author on the dedication page notes that her version of Noah’s Ark follows in the tradition of “midrash” - “elaborating or filling in the gaps to interpret and more completely understand stories from the Bible.” Worse and Worse is a nice introduction to that concept. And a note at the end, either eerily prescient or written recently, notes that “it’s not easy to get along when you’re crowded together on an ark… or at home.”

With its relatable story and fun animal illustrations, Worse and Worse on Noah’s Ark is an excellent introduction to the Noah story for children. While I wish the illustrations had used a brighter palette and that Noah and his family had been given more personality (the men are distinguishable mainly by their different facial hair), the animals were given plenty, including a ukulele (lute?)-playing frog.

Based on a BIblical story and imbued with Jewish values and flavor, this book meets the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Rachel J. Fremmer is a lawyer-turned-elementary-school librarian. A native New Yorker, she lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters. In addition to reading, she loves to bake and to do crossword puzzles.