Something for Nothing
ISBN: 0618159827 (ISBN13: 9780618159826)
Illustrated by Jacqueline M. Cohen
Published March 24, 2003 by Clarion Books
Dog lived in the noisiest part of Bialystok. All day long he heard the hubbub of the nearby marketplace, and all night long he heard the banging and clanging of workmen unloading their goods. When he could take the racket no more, Dog set off for the country to find a quieter place to live.
On his first night in his new home, a gang of howling and yowling, hissing and screeching cats terrorize him, destroying his newfound peace and quiet. Inspired by a Jewish folk tale, how Dog outwits the rascally cats makes for a humorous, satisfying story, exuberantly illustrated with stunning jewel-toned paintings reminiscent of Marc Chagall’s.
Author and illustrator make a dual children's book debut in this long-ish but clever story inspired by a Yiddish folktale. When Dog tires of the "banging, clanging, rumbling, shouting, moaning, groaning, clip-clop, clip-clop city," he piles his belongings onto a cart and sets out for the peace and quiet of the countryside. Alas, there he is awoken by the "howling and yowling, hissing and screeching" of three rowdy cats, who also hurl stones and apples at his house. So the crafty canine hatches a plan. Complaining that he misses the hubbub of Bialystock, Dog offers the cats one gold zloty if they come to his home at moonrise and "make noise and commotion until dawn." The noise, he adds, will have to be loud, because he will not give them "something for nothing." Complying, the felines make quite the racket—and two and three times that racket when Dog ups the ante accordingly on successive nights. But on the fourth day, when Dog announces he has run out of money, the cats refuse to continue their banging and clanging, asserting that they will not give him something for nothing. Stampler's cache of onomatopoeic words makes for a diverting read-aloud but may prove cumbersome to newly independent readers. Cohen's stylized watercolors serve up faux naïve perspectives and jumbled patterns in bright confectionery colors. The artificially flavored palette tips the tale away from its pungent folk wisdom and into a low-stakes fantasy. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)