People who have seen hard times are tough to impress. In “Could Be Worse!” by James Stevenson, two kids can’t seem to get their grandfather to offer them any sympathy. No trying, troublesome, gut-wrenching day can get any comment out of him other than, “Could be worse.”
Nothing upsets Grandpa’s apple cart, not even when the dog makes a mess.
Stevenson was a prolific children’s book author and New Yorker cartoonist, and his illustrations anticipate the trend in modern books of using panels to convey multiple events on the same page. His approach draws from comics to show cause and effect, changes in expression, and sound effects.
My daughter was resistant to pulling this book on the shelf, possibly because of the sketchy drawings, elderly featured character and muted color palette, but she changed her mind. She laughed harder and louder as the grandfather’s adventures grew progressively more outlandish. It surprised her, and I loved seeing her giggle.
“Could Be Worse!” has the highest number of reviews on GoodReads I’ve seen for one of my childhood books, and that’s a testament to its timeless humor. I recommend joining the many other readers who mentioned ordering a copy as an adult; you might be surprised at your child’s joyful reaction.