As I continue the transition into a new house, I’m still focusing on picture books that address the concepts of house and home. And I think I found a Perfect Picture Book that does just that, and more!
Written & Illustrated By: Sophie Blackall
Publisher/Date: Little Brown and Company/2022
Suitable for Ages: 4-8 and older
Themes/Topics: home, family, farmhouse, stories, what we leave behind
Over a hill, at the end of a road, by a glittering stream that twists and turns, stands a house
Brief Synopsis: A lyrical visit to an old farmhouse that once housed a large family.
Links to Resources:
- Watch a behind-the-scenes description of the making of Farmhouse;
- Try constructing miniature furniture, a room, or a house from found materials;
- Write a true story about your home and family, or, if you live in or have visited an older house, write a story about the people who lived there using clues found in the house;
- Read the Author’s Note to learn more about the actual farmhouse that inspired this picture book.
Why I Like this Book:
From the book jacket, with its raised lettering and window frames showing views into the farmhouse, to the cover underneath, with its view inside the farmhouse, and on to the endpapers and story, Farmhouse is a treat to read and reread. Not surprisingly given its creator, the illustrations are gorgeous and so full of details. Children and adults of all ages can spend hours examining them and will find new details each time.
But focusing only on the illustrations risks missing the story, the imagined history of the family that lived in the farmhouse, based on the clues left behind when the last of the twelve children left home as an older woman.
Blackall could have ended the farmhouse’s story with this last departure, but, instead, she remained with the house, sharing how nature and wildlife took over, until “I came and cut a path” to “what remained of the old farmhouse”. Finding treasures among the leaves, nuts, and animal droppings, Blackall’s imagination and artistry took over, as she used “gifts from the falling-down house” to set the scene and fill in the story of the farmhouse’s family.
Addressing readers directly, she then reminded us that the family’s story lives on, just as our stories will, if we tell them. After reading Farmhouse, I think both children and adults will be inspired to follow Blackall’s suggestion.
From the items Blackall found, including hand-sewn clothes, an organ, wallpaper scraps, old books, and even “a button that was once a shell in the sea”, she constructed a narrative that convinces readers (at least this reader) that this farmhouse was not a mere house but a home, filled with work and play and laughter and love. What a wonderful message for kids of all ages!
A Note about Craft:
As Blackall notes in the Author’s Note, the inspiration for Farmhouse was the abandoned, falling-down farmhouse on a farm she purchased. She describes how she first encountered the house and why it inspired her. She even used materials she found in the house to create the artwork. What an insight into her creative process!
The text is one long sentence. Although readers certainly will need to pause for breath, writing it this way ties the whole together, driving home Blackall’s belief that places and people live on in the stories we tell.
Finally, Blackall herself appears towards the end of the text as the first-person narrator who creates this book.
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!