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Monday, September 12, 2011

A Place to Call Home, written by Alexis Deacon and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz. Candlewick 2011. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Is this our new home?
It can't be.
It's damp.
But we came so far!
Still...we have to go on."

When their space becomes cramped and the seven hamster brothers decide it is time to move, their journey makes for side-splitting humor of the best kind. A small, dark hole is not the place for these brothers any longer. At one time, it was warm and comforting. Now, with uncontrolled growth, they take up every nook and cranny of the space and more!

A series of panels is able to convey those growth changes dramatically and with growing humor, until we are faced with a scene that has the tiny hole teeming with round bodies, crushed limbs and even a head sticking up out of the top of the hole. NO room at this inn. Off they go into the greater world of the junkyard where an old sofa provided their first hole. From this perspective we can see the whole of the yard; that is going to be important as the action moves forward.  Look carefully!

Speech bubbles offer a sense of the despair they are feeling about the move. There is a back-and-forth conversation offering nonsensical solutions. One suggestion is to find some holes for each one. They turn out to be a paper tube, some old rubber gloves, a cup, a lampshade, an old know where they are coming from, don't you? As they move on, they continue asking the one brother who can see anything what's in front of them. A mud puddle is misconstrued as the sea. A dog dish offers a raft for the crossing. They are relieved and jubilant when it is crossed safely. That destination doesn't prove worthy of habitation.

On they go, over a mountain, onto the desert, and into an old dryer, which turns out to be dark and cold and hard...not at all suitable. When they get to what they think must be the end of the world, we note that they have attracted the attention of the junkyard's guard dog. And when one of them disappears in the mouth of that critter, it's brothers to the rescue! Think of all they have accomplished; are they going to let a 'beast' get in their way? I think NOT!

Perfect, and totally rereadable...over and over again!

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