Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Building Our House

Making a house from scratch isn't an easy task, as this delightfully detailed picture book shows. A young girl narrates the process, starting on the day she and her parents and baby brother move from their old house in the city to the country. For the next year and a half the family pulls together to build their new home, living in a trailer set under a large oak tree in a big, weedy field.

The text outlines the grueling work involved, while the illustrations highlight the adventures. One of the most charming aspects of this book is the way the family bands together to get the work done. The title page shows the two children hoisting boxes to their father as the family moves from their city row house. Once building starts, the kids continue to lend a hand, carrying tools, collecting rocks from a quarry, and mixing concrete. Of course, kids will be kids, so we also see them sliding down piles of sand, cooling off in a pool, and sledding as their parents toil.

When it's time to raise the frame, relatives, friends, and neighbors come to help and stay to celebrate. The work doesn't end there and young readers will see how many details are involved in making a house livable. Through fall and winter the family puts the finishing touches on the house, installing plumbing, insulation, and painting the woodwork. At last spring arrives and it's moving day. Again family and friends gather to help. (Alert readers will notice the addition of a new baby.) The final illustration shows the family in their cozy living room snuggled together on the couch, the father reading aloud from a book. (According to a Horn Book interview, the book is likely Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House.)

In an author's note, Bean explains that in the 1970s his parents built their own house in the countryside, although the process took considerably longer--five long years. Photos showing the author and his siblings "helping" make this engaging story all the more convincing.

Building Our House
by Jonathan Bean
Farrar Straus Giroux, 48 pages
Published: January 2013

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