Was It a Good Trade? is a lively volume that practically dances right off the bookshelf. First published in 1956, the book, which is based on a folk song, has been reissued with new artwork by Irene Haas, the original illustrator. The whimsical tale begins with a man who says, "I had a little knife, I traded for a wife." He keeps on trading throughout, swapping the cake his wife bakes for a rake, then a shoe, then a slate, then a cat, and so on, until he finally gets his knife back and announces "I'm through with trading." Preschoolers will revel in the sequence of trades, often quite humorous (one involves a whale), and at the end they can sing along the folk song and music are included in the book. What truly makes this silly tune come to life are Irene Haas' lively illustrations, all focused on the main character. She portrays the trader as a cute, avuncular, bald fellow with glasses and a hat, both of which constantly fall off, get twisted or fly through the air. Haas enlivens his Tigger-like antics he practically bounces along on each page with his amusing expressions, ranging from sheer happiness to befuddlement whenever he fears a trade has gone sour.
De Regniers, who studied dance and theater, and whose May I Bring a Friend? won a Caldecott, once wrote, "It's no accident, I think, that when I write books I think of choreography. That is, the story and pictures must have a pace and pattern." No doubt de Regniers would heartily approve of Haas' latest lilting, prancing illustrations. The book is wider than it is tall, giving this "trading-up" fellow plenty of room to prance through the pages as he endlessly searches for something better. His tale concludes on a reassuring note of satisfaction: "So now I have my little knife/my little wife/and I will keep them all my life. . . . " However, once a trader, always a trader, so our hero soon sheepishly inquires, "Well . . . what've you got to trade?" If all else fails, simply turn to the front and start trading again.