I’m continuing with the theme of houses, and homes, and families this week, as my guess is those are themes on all of our minds this holiday season. I think I’ve found the Perfect Picture Book to do so.
Title: The Blue House
Written & Illustrated By: Phoebe Wahl
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Children’s Books/2020
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: moving, home, single-parent household, urban renewal, overcoming loss
Leo lived with his dad in an old blue house next to a tall fir tree.
Brief Synopsis: When Leo and his father are evicted from their beloved rental home, they are sad, but eventually find home in their new house.
Links to Resources:
- What do you most like about your house? Draw a picture showing your favorite room or feature;
- If you could change one thing about your home or room, what would it be? Why?
- Leo and his father bake pie together. Try making this kid-friendly apple pie.
Why I Like this Book:
With its colorful, detailed illustrations and poignant story, The Blue House is a wonderful new picture book about moving and recreating home in a new location.
It’s clear at the outset that Leo and his father love living in the old blue house, despite the peeling paint, “leaks and creaks”, and the old heater that cuts out in the middle of winter. But sadly, they’re renters, and their landlord sells the house out from under them to make way for a bigger, newer, multi-family structure in its stead. With older children, this situation presents a wonderful opportunity to discuss the issues of urban renewal, the need for more multi-family units in many urban centers, and the pros and cons of tear-downs.
I love how Wahl shows readers that many activities can serve different purposes. Leo and his father bake a pie to warm up the old house and to help make the new house feel like home. They dance to keep warm, they “danced and stomped and raged” to feel “a little less mad” about the upcoming move, and they “danced and stomped and sang” in the new house. And they draw on the walls for different purposes, too, which I won’t share here as I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone.
For those who are in the midst of a move, just moved, or, like me, move often, I think Wahl’s description of the old house as “echoey and drafty like a hollow shell” will resonate. So, too, will her description of the new house as “empty, too. It didn’t feel like home”, at least not yet.
With its themes of making a house into a home, the bond between a loving parent and child, and overcoming loss, I think The Blue House is a perfect picture book for all families to savor and share.
A Note about Craft:
I love the thinly-veiled references to well-known books and music that Wahl, an author-illustrator, includes in the book. From The Hobbin to Talking Hens and Corn in the USA, I think adults will love spotting cultural references in the illustrations and sharing them with their little ones.
The Blue House features a father and son living on their own and dealing with the loss of their beloved rental home. No reference is made to a second parent and why he or she is not there. In my mind, this adds another layer to this heartfelt story, making me wonder whether that third family member may have resided in the blue house with Leo and his father.
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!