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?