Review: A Very Big Problem

A Very Big Problem by Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Annie Bowler

Cateogry: Picture Books
Reviewer: Laurie Adler

An argument is piercing through the serenity of God’s garden. Each creation, from rain to earthworms to children, takes a turn to argue why it’s the most important, and refrains that “God should love me the most. It’s only fair.” At the end, God gently intercedes and explains that there is enough love for everyone; each part of nature is crucial to the whole, and “without all of you together, there would be no garden at all.”

This gentle story was written to read like a midrash, an ancient Rabbinic story or parable, that expands upon the creation chapters in Genesis. It’s simplicity, alliteration, and repeating refrain will captivate preschool children, while its many ecological facts will broaden their knowledge of our world. Annie Bowler’s bold and colorful illustrations seem to spill out from the pages to perfectly capture each element of nature. The children are pictured as a multi-ethnic crew, highlighting the book’s theme of unity and acceptance. This book was designed with an attention to detail, from the authors’ note to parents and educators to the beautifully designed end pages.

The writing and bright illustrations in this book are perfect for its intended audience, and the topic and midrashic overtones reflect positive cultural and religious content. It’s most remarkable aspect, however, is that a story based on creationism should have such a broad appeal. It can be used to teach environmentalism, evolution, and as a jumping point for a discussion about teamwork and equality. A Very Big Problem should be a contender for the Sydney Taylor Award for picture books, and is highly recommended for school and children’s libraries. 

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Reviewer Laurie Adler has over fifteen years of library and classroom experience in providing library services readers' advisory to children of all ages. She is currently the Head Librarian at Ramaz Elementary School in New York City.