PPBF – A Home Named Walter

For anyone in moving mode, like me, I found a Perfect Picture Book, told from the perspective of a unique character. Enjoy!

TitleA Home Named Walter

Written By: Chelsea Lin Wallace

Illustrated By: Ginnie Hsu

Publisher/DateFeiwel and Friends/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: home, loss, overcoming loss, feelings, moving

Opening:

Walter was once a home.

He treasured the noise. He relished the mess. He liked the hustle and bustle.

But what he loved most was the warmth of family.

Brief SynopsisWhen his family moves away, an empty house named Walter feels sad, and he decides he doesn’t want anyone else to move in, at least at first.

Links to Resources:

  • Does your house have a name? If so, why does it have that name and how do you think that name suits it? If it doesn’t have a name, think of one for it;
  • Plant in or clean up a garden, hang pictures or photographs, or add other decorations to make your house feel loved and more like a home;
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide;
  • Enjoy A Song Named Walter by Tara Trudel, based on A Home Named Walter.

Why I Like this Book:

As many adults know, moving is one of the most difficult life transitions that we undertake. And when a move involves separation from loved ones or other life transitions, as it often does, a move is even more difficult, especially for children. So I was very happy to find A Home Named Walter that, I think, will help children dealing with a move and the many emotions involved.

Starting with the title, Wallace draws a distinction between a home that is cozy, lived in, and loved, and a house that is merely a structure in which people live. I love that the various phases of moving are highlighted: the emptiness when the first family moves out; the feeling that the new house is different, and presumably unsuitable, when Little Girl and her mother first move in; and the feeling of coziness when pictures are hung, plants appear, and boots and jackets find their place near the front door. 

Because Walter is unable to express his feelings except by the way he looks, Hsu’s illustrations have an especially important role to play. I love seeing how Walter’s appearance changes, from a happy home filled with a busy family, to an empty, abandoned-looking house, to a house filled with moving boxes, to a cozy home again. Note that the first family is multiracial, and the second is comprised of a single mother and daughter.

I think A Home Named Walter will appeal to families who are undergoing moves, and is an important book to share with all children as we think about what makes a dwelling a home.

A Note about Craft

Wallace tells Walter’s story from his point-of-view. It’s clear that the unnamed Little Girl and her mother are dealing with a difficult transition, too. But by focusing on the house’s feelings, I think Wallace helps readers who may be dealing with their own traumatic transitions to step back and realize that they aren’t alone, that others, including pets, family members, or friends, may be facing similar issues and experiencing similar emotions.

Because Walter is personified but is unable to move, Wallace and Hsu use a number of techniques to show his feelings: first by stating outright what he likes and dislikes; next by showing how his appearance changed when he “let his grass turn brown” and became a “cold, quiet, empty house”; and then by focusing on actions that a house could do, including blinds and an oven door that don’t open, a fireplace that doesn’t work, and pipes that burst.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

One response to “PPBF – A Home Named Walter

  1. Almost missed your review! Have never thought to name a house. Have named my cars. This really sounds like a moving story about loss and separation! Kids will certainly relate — an perhaps start giving names to their houses.

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