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Review: Building Our House February 3, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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Building Our HouseWhat kid hasn’t wanted, at some point, to build their own house? I’ve heard several people talk about the appeal that books like the Little House series have for kids (any gender) who like to build things, and Jonathan Bean adds to the list with his lovely new picture book, Building Our House. The premise is simple: A family of four leaves the city and drives out to the country. In the middle of a field, they live in a tiny trailer for a year while Mom and Dad build their new house. Each step is carefully detailed in either text or illustration, from mixing cement to raising the frame, to insulating and painting the walls. At the end, the entire family (including a new baby) gathers near the stove to read together.

To add to the high interest subject, this book is based on a true story. Bean’s parents built their own house using the same process in the book, although it took five years instead of one and a half. In an author’s note at the back, Bean provides pictures of the process, including one of himself standing among the rocks and boards of the basement. For people who would like to learn more about the back story of the book, Bean shares fantastic storyboards, early sketches and  even more photos over at the blog Seven Impossible Things.

I’ve read this book several times now and I never fail to be impressed by the variety of the page layouts. The illustrations frame the text perfectly and reflect the different steps of building while adding interesting details at the same time. The seasons too,  are included in both the spot illustrations (the brother and sister cooling off in the pool) and full page spreads (the green trees and hills surrounding the frame-raising party). Bean makes the hard work of a project like this clear to the reader, as well as the difficulties of weather. But if the work is hard, the result is well worth it, and the satisfaction of creating your own home is evident in the final spread of this gorgeous book.

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