About the Holiday
All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to share their stories and is celebrated this month when families typically get together for Thanksgiving. Although our Thanksgiving gatherings will be different this year, sharing stories can still be a part of the day. Oral storytelling, which has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times, is a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever.
A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale
Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber | Illustrated by Kristina Swarner
“Farmer Earl, his wife, Marge, and too many children to mention lived in an itty-bitty house….” Their house was so small they hardly had room to turn around. Fed up, Farmer Earl decided to go see the wise woman nearby and ask her advice. The wise woman listened to the farmer’s tale of woe and told him, “Put all of your ducks in your house.”
Farmer Earl wasn’t sure how that would help, but back home, he and Marge rounded up all of their ducks and slipped them one-by-one through the window. “The ducks flapped. / The ducks quacked. / The ducks waddled. / The ducks quacked.” They sat on the mantle and in the fireplace. They laid eggs on the floor and their feathers floated everywhere. For the family, “There was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.” Farmer Earl thought it was way too crowded and went back to see the wise woman.
When she heard how the farmer’s house was still too small for his family, she looked up from her knitting and told him, “‘Put all of your horses in your house.’” This didn’t seem to help at all. There were horses showering in the bathtub and ducks bathing in the toilet; horses eating the toilet paper and ducks in the sink. One duck even started nibbling Farmer Earl’s hat. Now there really “was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.”
This time when the farmer visited the wise woman, she gave him advice he didn’t want to hear, but when he got home, he did it anyway. It “proved to be a disaster.” Clothes, socks, and even the curtains were gnawed, the beds were rumpled, and food lay scattered all over the kitchen floor. He hurried back to the wise woman and shouted, “‘I’ve had enough!’” Sipping her tea, the wise woman listened to the farmer’s complaints, and then gave one more bit of advice – to return all of the animals to their place on the farm.
“‘How is that going to help?’ wondered Farmer Earl,” but once the animals were back where they belonged and the farmer came home to “no ducks snacking… / no ducks quacking…. / no horses chomping… / no horses stomping…. / no goats licking… / no goats kicking…,” he found there really was room for all!
Based on an old Yiddish folktale, Karen Rostoker-Gerber’s story is a hilarious reminder of the importance of perspective in life. Repeated words and phrases build on each other and invite kids to join in the fun as the animals wreck havoc throughout the tiny farmhouse. Farmer Earl’s reliance on the wise woman’s suggestions sets up suspenseful scenes with delightfully funny outcomes that readers will eagerly anticipate. When the animals are all back outside and Farmer Earl realizes the house is big enough for them all, kids will appreciate the cleverness of the wise woman and may look at their own difficult situations in a new way.
Kristina Swarner’s vivid and textured folk-art style illustrations perfectly reflect the plot and humor of the story. As a rooster wakens the family and multiple faces and pets can be seen in each of the farmhouse windows, readers are enticed to count, from page to page, just how many people live in this “itty-bitty” home. Lively images of the house filling up with animals will have kids laughing out loud and wanting to take stock of all the mayhem they’re causing. Astute readers may notice that while Farmer Earl considers his house too small, his children play happily in the space they have, revealing that contentment is the secret to a happy home.
An excellent choice for a rousing story time with a philosophical message, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale would be a welcome addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.
Ages 4 – 7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807556924
Discover more about Karen Rostoker-Gerber and her books on her website.
You can read an interview with Karen here.
To learn more about Kristina Swarner, her books, and her art, visit her website.
A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale Giveaway
I’m happy to be teaming up with Karen Rostoker-Gerber in a giveaway of
- One (1) copy of A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale, written by Karen Rostoker-Gerber| illustrated by Kristina Swarner
- Follow Celebrate Picture Books
- Retweet a giveaway tweet
- Reply with your favorite farm animal for an extra entry. Each reply earns one extra entry.
This giveaway is open from November 23 to November 30 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.
A winner will be chosen on December 1.
Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only.
Family Stories Week Activity
Animal Match-Up Game
During Family Stories Month it’s fun to play games together while learning more about each other. Play this fun matching game to find pairs of animals and talk about your favorite animals, pet stories, and the animals you’d like to see up close!
- Printable Animal Matching Cards
- Regular printing paper or heavy stock paper
- Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
- Print two sheets of the Animal Matching Cards for each player
- Color the cards (optional)
- Cut the cards apart
- Scramble the cards and lay them out face-side down
- Choosing one card at a time, turn one face up and then another.
- If the two cards match leave them face up
- If the two cards do not match lay them face down and try again.
- As you find matching pairs, leave the cards face up until all the pairs have been found.
- If playing against other players, the first to match all their animal cards is the winner
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