Every year on August 10th, I lurk on Twitter as teachers and other readers post about "ten books they can't live without." An impossible task, you say? Um, yes. But if we are "allowed" to choose ten within a theme—well, then we can talk—
There are so many books that have been written over the years about houses and what makes a home. Here are ten that live on my bookshelves, and why I love them:
A Very Special House by Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak, 1953: Ruth Krauss’s chanting, child’s voice and Sendak’s child-drawings together imagine “just a home for me – me – me!” Where a child can put feet on the table, draw on the walls, and bring home “a monkey and a skunky and a very old lion who is eating all the stuffing from the chairs, chairs, chairs!” Uptight adults will not approve of all that, of course, but most children will be delighted by this boisterous, “special” house.
I Want to Paint My Bathroom Blue, also by Krauss and Sendak, 1956: One of the books I love to give to families with young children, for its charm and fancy and pure joy. “I’ll make a house the kind I dream about not the kind I see…”
The Great Blue House by Kate Banks & Georg Hallensleben, 2005: Beautiful text and gouaches show the life of and in a house while it is closed up for the winter—but still home to a drippy faucet, a mouse, a spider, a cat, a bird. “All is quiet at the great blue house. Or is it?” Poetic and meditative.
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson & Beth Krommes, 2008: A beautiful, lyrical bedtime book that begins and ends with a house, the center and source of a child’s universe.
My House by Delphine Durand, 2007: "My house isn't fancy on the outside. Really nothing special at all —come in —"
This is not a book to read exactly (well, at least not to a crowd), it's a book to pour over and over, preferably with someone who shares your sense of humor. Each page is a jumble of rooms full of interesting, endearing, strange characters —"people", if you can call them that (Mr. Nozitall, Mrs. Fishyscales, Badhairday, Mega-Ugly and Maxi-Foul, et al), animals (large, small, invented), flops, flumps —who appear throughout this plotless book. It's sweetly bizarre and incredibly funny in a quirky sort of way, every inch full of tiny, amusing details, painted in rich colors with occasional collaged bits.
Home Place by Crescent Dragonwagon & Jerry Pinkney, 1990: Daffodils come up in the woods, in a row, every spring, the only living memory of a house long gone. Amid ruins in the woods — a chimney, a foundation smothered in weeds — a narrator imagines the family that lived there. A lovely rumination on what makes a house a home.
Home by Carson Ellis, 2015: What is a home? Ellis presents all kinds of possibilities here, real and fanciful. A simple, thoughtful, and lovingly painted collection of homes and people who live in them.
Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins & Emily Hughes, 2018: “Everything you need for a treehouse begins with time and looking up and imagining a home…” this book begins. Lusciously written and illustrated (pay attention to those pictures and you will learn a lot about all kinds of trees and different ways of building), this is an ode to the role of imagination in creating homes.
Hello, Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, 2018: Tender text and intricate illustrations reflect the author’s love of lighthouses, depicted through days, seasons, years. Readers learn about the function and keeping of lighthouses, but even more about how the lighthouse was also a home. Just beautiful.
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, 1942: You know this classic, don’t you? One of my childhood favorites.
What are some of your favorite books about houses and homes?
Every year, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators gives awards to fifteen books that represent excellence in the field of children’s literature, the Crystal Kites Awards. These awards are peer-selected, voted on by SCBWI members from local regions, and I am so proud and touched that This House, Once was selected by my writing community as this year's winner for New England.
Many, many thanks to all of my NESCBWI friends, and congratulations to the other winners!
"Thinking about a book itself—its jacket, its endpapers, its pages—as part of the story is less a clever trick than it is second nature to Freedman, an architect by training, whose stories often riff on the physical limitations of space and breaking through boundaries..."
Journalist Kathy Czepiel visited me at home last month, where we chatted about building stories. Read the rest of her article here, at the Daily Nutmeg.
Photo by Kathy Leonard-Czepiel and Dan Mims.
Did you know that April is Poetry Month? I’ve been celebrating with extra poetry reading —including, naturally, picturebooks. Because my favorite picturebook texts are always lyrical, layered, and — rhyming or not — poems...
Read the rest in my recently mailed eNewsletter — here.*
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Where do my ideas come from? Sometimes it's hard to recall...
...though I do remember the exact moment of inspiration for my book Blue Chicken. While re-reading some favorite poems one day, I came to "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams. You know the one — about a red wheelbarrow (naturally) and white chickens? Well, my illustrator-brain pictured both immediately. And then it started asking questions, such as — what was the setting? Were there other animals? Other colors? Hmmm...
If you have read Blue Chicken, then you know where my mind went next. Mr. Williams probably would not have approved. But I thank him anyway.
Happy Poetry Month!
Colby Sharp invited more than forty authors and illustrators to provide story starters for each other; photos, drawings, poems, prose, or anything they could dream up. When they received their prompts, they responded by transforming these seeds into any form of creative work they wanted to share.
The result is a stunning collection of words, art, poetry, and stories by some of our most celebrated children book creators. A section of extra story starters by every contributor provides fresh inspiration for readers to create works of their own. Here is an innovative book that offers something for every kind of reader and creator!
I had such fun working on my contribution to The Creativity Project. I hope you will look for it in March!
I am honored that art from my latest book, This House, Once, is included in The Original Art — an annual exhibit "celebrating the fine art of children’s book illustration" at the Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, New York, now on display until December 30, 2017.
Founded in 1980 by illustrators’ agent and art director Dilys Evans, this exhibit showcases the original art from the year’s best children’s books. The 2017 exhibit features a diverse list of books selected by a jury of outstanding illustrators, art directors, and editors...
Some of my favorite illustrators working today will have art from their beautiful books represented here — if you are in NYC, do swing by!
In honor of Picture Book Month, teacher Kurt Stroh is hosting on his blog a wonderful series called "The Power of the Picture Book," through the whole month of November. I'm so pleased that he invited me to join in today — take a look at the whole series and my contribution, "The Secret of It". At www.strohreads.
I always have fun drawing and painting with children at schools, libraries, bookstores & festivals... whether splashing blue paint á la Blue Chicken, or simply drawing and making up stories.
Since This House, Once was released, we have been making "houses" together, and I thought I'd share this little project because it is engaging and so super-simple (and not messy!). We just fold paper or card stock in half, cut and fold a door — and then kids can draw, color, decorate inside and out. For the littlest house-makers, you can do the cutting and folding.
Take a look at these houses — and then try it!
It’s that time of year again — my books are going back to school.
What will the new school year bring? ...
Read the rest in my latest eNewsletter — here. And be sure to scroll all the way down, for a special offer for my eNews subscribers!
If you aren't familiar with singer/songwriter Emily Arrow, you should be. And not just because she created a wonderful song and video (which I adore, of course) about my book, This House, Once... Emily brings picture books and music together in the loveliest way!
You can read here about how her recent move inspired Emily to write this song.
I loved chatting earlier this month with Carter Higgins, author, K-6 librarian, and insightful reviewer of picture books. We talk about creativity, the fact that I am plot-challenged, and a few other things...
Take a look, at her blog, Design of the Picture Book.
In anticipation of the publication of This House Once, I had the honor of chatting recently with two wonderful picturebook friends about my newest book. We talked about things like inspiration, making one's home an art-friendly environment, and if I weren't writing books, what would I be doing? You can read those interviews here:
Today I celebrate another book birthday!
At my fifth birthday party, there was a hole in the backyard. A really, really big, muddy hole...
Wishing all a peaceful and healthy New Year.