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Monday, November 21, 2011

If You Lived Here, written and illustrated by Giles Laroche. Houghton Mifflin, Thomas Allen & Son. 2011. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"If you lived here, you could catch fish from your bedroom window. Tall and strong wooden stilts would hold your house high above the rising tides of an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. At high tide you could hop on a boat to visit a friend, and at low tide you could walk around the base of the stilts to gather crabs..."

Do you know where you are? If you were reading this new book by the talented and articulate Giles Laroche, you would. Since you might not be doing that right at this minute, I will tell you!

You are living in a palafitos on Chiloe Island in Chile. Or you might also be living in Asia, Europe, Africa or somewhere else in South America where houses are built on stilts. This house has been built since the 1500s...the ones illustrated here were built in the 1990s. Generally constructed of durable woods by fishermen, it makes it easier for them to get to work quickly. To add to your knowledge, here is an interesting fact:

"Palafitos are quickly built as a community project by neighborhood families on special work days called mingas."

That is the format that invites readers to explore the many types of homes people live in throughout the world. Each new double page spread is accompanied by intricately detailed paper collage artwork. There is an 'if you lived here' introduction and that is followed by five specific entries: house type, materials, location, date and a fascinating fact. Fascinating, indeed!

The illustrations certainly add to the appeal...they have a three dimensional look, with details that will encourage lengthy examination. Readers will enjoy peering into windows, imagining themselves walking bridges from one part of the home to another, and perhaps even daring to dream of someday visiting such structures on their travels.

Wouldn't it be interesting to invite our newly immigrated children to share pictures, drawings and stories of the houses where they lived in their home countries? This is a wonderful book to use as an invitation to such sharing. It also offers a picture of homes throughout history, and provides a map of the world and places each home on that map when the reading is done.

I will end with what I imagine might be the dream home of every child, at some point in their lives:

"If you lived here, in the cool of the trees, you and your friends could be high above the ground and away from your parents, brothers, and sisters. With a strong tree in your backyard, and whatever scrap materials you can find - boards, old windows and doors, used furniture, canvas, a homemade ladder - you can build your tree house to look whatever way you like."


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