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Sunday, December 2, 2018

A Boy and A House, written and illustrated by Maja Kastelic. Annick Press, 2018. $12.95 ages 4 and up

"A boy.

A cat.

An adventure.

A mystery undone.

A lovely surprise."

You know about animals and children, don't you?! They are so keen on each other, and seem prepared to follow them anywhere. It's exactly what happens in this exquisitely illustrated adventure.

A young boy heads away from home, enjoying the neighborhood and interested it what surrounds him. Neighbors can be seen at their apartment windows, a man bicycles past while another many walks his dog. A girl looks out from the lighted door at #42.

While mice frolic in the window at #34, a cat peers into the darkening street from another lighted doorway. The boy edges closer, hand held out in hopes of making a new friend. It does not happen. The cat climbs the stairs in the rather dilapidated building; the boy follows. He picks up a drawing as he approaches the staircase. Along the way there is much to see - on the walls, on the staircase. As he goes, he picks up other drawings that have been left behind.

An open, lighted door at the end of a long hallway leads to a room set for a tea party. The two soldier on - past a library, up a spiral staircase, past an art gallery. The pace quickens. First a sitting room, followed by another staircase, all littered with more and more discarded pictures. Does danger await?

I love every detail of his journey to the attic.There is much to see and so many stories to be discovered by paying close attention. I guarantee that you will not 'read' it only one time. Children will find many familiar items as they make the journey with the boy and the cat. While the adults who share it may not see the mice that take part in the adventure, children will see them every time! 

The author uses a sepia-toned palette and makes tremendous use of shadow and light to create a mysterious, and ultimately very satisfying story. No words needed.

Of her book, Maja has this to say:

" ...  is a silent book about a little boy’s morning wandering, and also, or even more, a story about going up and following the light, about curiosity and daring, getting lost and finding, friendship, secrets, and also about hoping for and believing in happy endings. I also wished to make it as an homage to literature, illustration, and to the nostalgic beauty of old times and timeless things.

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