Picture Book Review: A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano & Lane Smith

Review: A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, illus. Lane Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: May 1, 2018 by Roaring Book Press
Book Description:

The dynamic duo of Ezra Jack Keats Award-winning author Julie Fogliano and Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Lane Smith team up to tell a delightful story about a boy and a girl who explore an abandoned house and imagine who might have lived there in A House That Once Was .

Deep in the woods
is a house
just a house
that once was
but now isn’t
a home.

Who lived in that house? Who walked down its hallways? Why did they leave it, and where did they go?

Two children set off to find the answers, piecing together clues found, books left behind, forgotten photos, discarded toys, and creating their own vision of those who came before.

Readers who have already experienced the beautifully melodic writing of the Julie Fogliano (If You Want to See a Whale) as well as the lush (and sometimes wonderfully peculiar) artwork of Lane Smith (Grandpa Green), might already know that they are in for a treat with A House That Once Was!

At the top of a hill
sits the house
that is leaning.
A house that once wasn’t
but now is peeling.
A house that was once
painted blue.

Image from A House That Once Was via Macmillan site

Tinged with this happy-sad feeling of nostalgia, a little bit achy, bittersweet yet hopeful, A House That Once Was is story told through the eyes of two young kids who find an old, seemingly abandoned house in the woods. As a bright-eyed blue bird closely watches (and possibly judges!) the kids’ behaviour, the two explorers venture inside through “a window that now has no window at all, a window that says climb inside”. The children wander quietly- whispering to each other- making their way through the house, looking at photographs, emptied cans, books, cooking, and other forgone items, imagining who might have once owned and lived in the house that once was. Could the owner have been a “woman who painted all day in the garden portraits of squirrels…”, or “a boy who built planes and dreamt nightly of flying? A baby? A cowboy? A queen or a king?”. Thinking about why this house is in its current state, the children consider everything from past residents being involved in shipwrecks…or taking off to Paris…simply running away…Or! Is the house is simply waiting for their owner(s) to return? After some time has passed, the children venture out of the “house that was once but now isn’t a home”- blue bird still watching their movements- and ponder at their experiences as they make their way back to their own waiting, inviting home.

Image from A House That Once Was via Macmillan site

I have mentioned the feeling of nostalgia in a few picture books as of late (e.g. Alma and How She Got Her Name), and there’s just something that I quite love about a story with some wistfulness in it…Quiet, lyrical picture books such as A House That Once Was are an experience to read and to savour (A House That Once Was would be a lovely read to pair with A House Held Up by Trees and This House, Once). I have read this title a number of times to myself, but reading it aloud and relishing in performing Fogliano’s rhythmic texts makes for a new experience! Overall, a beautiful read that stands perfectly against the backdrop of Smith’s thoughtful and rather dreamy mixed-media illustrations. Readers who have have previously read and enjoyed Julie Fogliano’s work and are fans of Lane Smith’s art, or who enjoy more reflective picture books might especially enjoy the beauty of A House That Once Was.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Must Read Monday (30): Raymie Nightingale & When Green Becomes Tomatoes

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: two new titles from authors and illustrators I fervently admire! First up is Raymie Nightingale, the latest from the award-winning, critically acclaimed Kate DiCamillo. Save for one or two Mercy Watson titles, I have read everything DiCamillo has written and adore her work. Her writing is transcendent. Sublime. I cannot even express just how much The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane means to me- it remains one of my all time favourite reads. Needless to say, I am beside myself with anticipation to read DiCamillo’s latest! Second up is a poetry collection, When Green Becomes Tomatoes, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Canadian artist Julie Morstad. Fogliano’s picture book work is stunning, her writing expressive- If You Want to See a Whale is an example; and, as frequent readers of this site may know, Morstad is one of my most read and esteemed author-illustrators. The collaboration of these two Julies is an occasion to be excited about!

RAYMIENIGHTINGALE25937866

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Expected publication: April 12, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

 

WHENGREEN25332008When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illus. Julie Morstad
Publication: March 1, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press

december 29
and i woke to a morning
that was quiet and white
the first snow
(just like magic) came on tip toes
overnight

Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano’s skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad’s charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.