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Monday, April 10, 2017

This house, once. Written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon and Schuster. 2017. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"These stones were once below,
underground, deep asleep,
tucked beneath
a blanket of leaves.

These bricks were once mud
that oozed around roots,
sticky and loose
before formed and baked hard."

What an unusually beautiful book this is! I am always so impressed with Deborah Freedman's flawless work. Not long ago I told you about Shy. Today, I am equally excited to share this new book with you. It is very special, and I see awards in its future.

She begins with the door to the house. It is placed on white space, our attention drawn to the red doorknob on this tiny wooden opening.

"This door was once a colossal oak tree
about three hugs around
and as high as the blue."

Oh, I hadn't thought about that. A turn of the page and a full page spread shows that small door placed in a tall tree that is shrouded in wispy clouds. We also see that tiny kitten, first noticed on the book's title page ... and a squirrel. Moving forward we learn about the stones that form its foundation, the bricks created the mud 'that oozed around roots', and the rock shingles that ensure shelter for those who live inside. Perfection!

If you are reading this with little ones, their eyes will be constantly attentive to the kitten and the friends it gathers as the story progresses; the joys of discovery it makes as it sniffs out a mole, plays in the mud, and finally watches its new friends seek shelter from the coming cold. Just in time, the oak door opens to a home that offers shelter and protection.

"The house remembers" and so will we.

No words can possibly convey the contentment felt when the reading is complete. Our debt to nature and its bounty, the power of memory, the inquisitive brain piqued by quietly beautiful text, the eyes immersed in glorious artwork - all here for our admiration.

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