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Monday, September 22, 2014

Julia's House for Lost Creatures, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast Books, 2014. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"It was a very sad troll.
The city had torn down
his bridge and he asked
if he could please stay.
Just until he could get
back on his feet.
Julia had just settled the
troll in her best chair..."

 If you have previously met Zita the Spacegirl, you will recognize Ben Hatke's name on the cover of his first picture book. One look at the young girl on the cover, and you will surely want to know more about her. First of all, a turtle carries her house on its back. They settle by the sea on a quiet beach; quiet is the operative word. In fact, it's far too quiet for Julia. So, she puts up a sign that invites any lost creature wanting shelter to come and stay.

 It isn't long until they begin knocking on her door. It doesn't stop at one either. Soon, there is a menagerie of creatures, all seeking comfort and company in Julia's house. What happens when the house fills up with guests and chaos begins to show the many difficulties that can arise with too many guests? Chores are needed and careful thinking is the order of the day.

Julia is a very special little girl, and it shows on every page of Ben Hatke's charmer of a debut. There is so much to see and appreciate about her nature and her ability to think clearly. There is a brief STOP in the action which gives readers a chance to catch their breath and enjoy the rest of the ride.

It is quickly read, and not so quickly perused. It is a perfect readaloud for two; in that way, close connections can be made with the visual images that accompany the short text. Using spots, panels and full spreads, Mr. Hatke delights with what happens when chaos reigns in a house meant to be inhabited by humans. Julia makes the right decisions to ensure that all is well again. Will they find a place for themselves, or move on? Wait! What's that noise? Who's going to fix that?

None of the magical quality of the story is lost, no matter how many times you read it.                                                                              

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