In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Friendship, homebuilding and peanut butter

Dear Annie,

"Everything!  Everything!"  What a perfect reaction to getting the connections in a series of books.  Such a lovely time you're having reading with your children.

Tonight I'm spilling the beans on a Christmas gift I'll be sending Eleanor and Isabel.  I first read this one as a sample back in the spring, and have been waiting to write about it until it came out last week. 
A House in the Woods
is a picture book written and illustrated by the wonderful Inga Moore -- I don't know if this is her first foray into writing.  You've written about her illustrations for Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden.  She continues to do amazing emotionally descriptive pictures filled with detail.  And her characters are full of body language and personality.

We start with two friends:
One morning the two Little Pigs went out walking together.  One Little Pig found a feather, and the other found an interesting stick.
After the walk, the pigs find that their homes have been unintentionally destroyed by their large friends Moose and Bear, who were only trying to move in:
There they are, in a pickle, with such expressive human-like bodies, the pigs with the feather and stick, and a Narnia-esque lamppost in the woods.

They decide to build a house together and call the Beavers (old-fashioned phone on nearby tree) to help them with the project:

The beavers are so professional -- and so consistently cheerful.  And payment in peanut-butter sandwiches is such a nice touch.  They fell trees in beaver fashion, with cheers from the non-chewers, then everyone gets busy:
This size picture doesn't do the scene justice: there's so much going on!
By lunchtime the walls of the house were up . . . and by dinnertime the roof was on. (The lunch and dinner times were on different days, of course.  Beavers are fast, but not that fast.)
The house is finally finished and furnished, and the bill is delivered.  There's a dash to the local store to buy peanut-butter and bread, and the four friends go to the quite spectacular beaver lodge with six towering plates of sandwiches to which grown-up and child beavers help themselves.  Then then the four head back to their new home, have supper, talk by the fire, and go sweetly to bed.

The tone throughout the book is cozily descriptive.  Toward the end, the author asks if the reader thinks all that hard work has been worth it.  (How could one say not?)  And we get to say goodnight to each of the main characters, snoozing in their beds beneath birds roosting in the rafters.  A really wonderful book.



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