What does it take to make a house into a home? We have lived in our current home for almost 7 years now and it feels like home. It took quite awhile, though. I don't know that I can pinpoint exactly when it started to feel like ours. Perhaps when I finally got pictures put up on the walls?
It helps that my husband used to work in construction, so he can and will remodel as we go along. With every project we have done, the house has felt a little more like our own. Now, as I look around our home, I can see our touches on nearly every surface.
We've got a mix of excitement and trepidation around here, as we think about what our new home will be like. I'm excited--I think the kids are mostly excited, with a few reservations. This house is all that they have known, after all. The older two were small when we moved here (2 and 9 mos.), so I know they'll probably miss it.
All the more reason to read some good books to get us ready for the change!
A family moves into a trailer house on wheels in the middle of a weedy field. Then step by step, they build a new house. Everyone pitches in, through all kinds of weather, until the happy day arrives--moving day!
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Prior to my marriage, this book would have been a revelation to me. I hardly knew anything about houses were built. Since then, I feel like I've lived it, to some extent! We've never built a house from scratch--yet--but our first home we basically took down to the studs and built back out from there. There have been many remodeling projects since, in every house we've lived in.
So, this was great! My 9-year old, who is "too old" for picture books usually, picked this one up of his own accord to read. He told me later that it should be nonfiction. I call that a win!
Illustrated by Niki Daly
A human family looks at house after house, hoping to find the one that is just right. Meanwhile, a raccoon realtor help various animal families find a home at Old Mill Farm. When the humans see it, they know it is perfect--even though it is a bit run-down.
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Anyone who has gone house-hunting will relate to this story of "not quite right" homes. Even though you know the outcome (it is in the title, after all), it is satisfying to put each piece into place, until all the families have a home.
Vernon is a collector of interesting things. He is out foraging when he finds Bird. Bird doesn't say much, but Vernon makes friends with him anyway. When Bird still hasn't spoken after some time, Vernon's other friends suggest that perhaps he's homesick. So Vernon sets out to find Bird's home, without much luck. However, he proves to be an attentive and determined friend. Then one day, he chances upon Bird's actual home--a cuckoo clock! Once Bird has been safely returned, he speaks!
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What a sweet little story this is. Vernon is a frog--I think--and it is obvious from the beginning that Bird is not real. My favorite line (after Bird does not respond at all to introductions): "'Bird is shy,' said Vernon, 'but also a very good listener.'"
I really enjoyed the illustrations, as well. They're a bit out of the ordinary, but I couldn't find anything on the endpapers saying what he used. Looks like perhaps a mix of crayon and watercolor? My little artist daughter was also looking more closely, trying to figure out how to recreate that look. Then the ending is such a perfect climax to this whole story. My kids have asked for this one to be re-read several times.
Illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin
The story of a house that has been in the family for 5 generations, starting way back when great-great-great-great-grandpa built it, all the way to the child on his grandma's lap who lives in it now.
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The pictures are what attracted me to this book, and they are wonderful! Packed with detail, in varied panels and sizes, each 2-page spread shows how the family of that generation lived. So the first set talks about what the grandpa did and the next about what grandma did. Each of the grandpas builds onto the house.
Oh, this book made me nostalgic; I guess for what might have been, because this sure was not my experience! In fact, I think it's rare to find any families that have lived in the same home for generations, anymore. We moved 3 times while I was growing up, and my husband's family moved 14 (?) I think. Anyway, how it would be to have such deep roots in a place? I don't know, but this book makes it seem pretty special.
Hermit Crab grows out of his shell, so he goes looking for another one. He finds one--but it is a little plain. So he carefully begins to gather up sea creatures and friends to decorate, protect, and brighten his home. But what will happen when he grows out of this home?
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Carle's signature painted cut-paper illustrations are as vibrant as ever in this story about making a house into a home.
The House on Dirty-Third Street, by Jo S. Kittinger
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
A girl and her mom are getting a fresh start, but their house is the worst ever! It's filthy and falling down, and the neighbors don't seem all that friendly. Mom has a vision of how it can look, but even she gets discouraged after a whole day of cleaning filth.
They decide to go to the church they saw a few blocks away, and once they get there, the girl asks for prayers for her mom--and for herself, too--to be able to see their new house with eyes of faith. Shortly after services are over, people start showing up to help. Before long, the house is an anthill of activity, as new friends work on everything from the shingles to the plumbing. Guess they can't call it "Dirty-Third Street" anymore.
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To be honest, I was a bit surprised to find this one at my public library. There aren't many picture books that openly feature religion, church, or prayers there. At least, I haven't found very many. Maybe I would find more if I went looking for them.
Anyway, this tender story touched my heart. When all the people showed up to make things happen for this single mom and her daughter, I even got a little misty-eyed. That's how it's supposed to work, folks.
I really liked how the illustrations start with very little color added to the realistic-looking line drawings, while the two are on their own, but as hope and help arrives, color enters their world. A subtle but effective touch.
Illustrated by Karla Firehammer
The old woman who lived in a shoe tries to find a new home for her brood, with no success. Finally, they settle back into the same worn shoe they came from, after all--"If the shoe fits, then wear it."
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The old woman and her children run in and out of all sorts of nursery rhymes on their way back home again.
My favorite was the last page:
She was still an old woman who lived in a shoe.
And she still had those children, but she knew what to do.
She gave them some broth and kissed all their faces,
Then tucked them in bed and tied up the laces.
An Usborne First Experiences book
Follows the Sparks family as they pack up their things and move into a new house.
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Straightforward text and pictures. Nothing really stands out about this one, but if you just need a book that goes through the usual steps involved in moving to a new house, this will do it.
Go along with Mr. Postmouse, as he loads up his little wagon with letters and packages, and makes his daily deliveries.
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The real fun in this book is the illustrations. Each animal's house is shown as a cutaway, with all kinds of whimsical details. For instance, Mr. Bear's house has a beehive on the roof, connected to a pipe, dripping into a jar of honey. The Crocs' house has water on every floor. The flies live in a dung pile, and there's even a delivery for Mr. Yeti in the snow cave!
This is a book to pore over together!
Pictures by Rosanne Litzinger
The wee woman and her many children simply must find a new place to live. So off they go, looking in all kinds of places, until finally a giant-sized girl finds the perfect solution for them.
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Another "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" variation! What are the chances? Ha! This one has a bit of a different ending, as they all end up living happily ever after (one supposes) in a doll house. I'll have to admit, I didn't love these illustrations, but as usual, my children didn't seem to mind at all.
This is the Place for Me, by Joanna Cole
* This one is out of print, and I couldn't find a decent picture for the cover.
Bear's house is falling apart. Everywhere he looks things are broken! Finally, he decides it is time to find a new house to live in. So off he goes. Except that no matter where he goes, there's a problem. The cave he finds has a dragon in it! Some of the houses are too small, too delicious, or too scary. Just when he has almost given up hope, he finds one that will be just right...with a little work.
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I didn't realize until I looked it up on Goodreads, that this was by the same author as the Magic School Bus series! I had no idea she did other books! I don't know why that just rocked my world a little bit, but it did. Weird. Anyway....
My kids love knowing more than Bear in this story, and they always have to point out at the end--"But that's HIS old house!" That little plot device is probably the reason we've kept the book for several years now. Never gets old.
Illustrated by Korky Paul
There's a very tall house, with 5 floors. At the very bottom of the house lives an old lady who uses a cane to get around. "CLOMP, CLOMP, CLOMP." Right above her lives a dog, who gets all worked up whenever he hears the cane, so he starts barking. Wouldn't you know it, his barking wakes up the cat on the 3rd floor who begins to yowl, which upsets the baby up on Floor 4 and makes him cry, which causes the birds in the attic to start squawking. Can anything quiet down this very noisy house?
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This book has an unusual layout--you have to turn it sideways to read it! I suppose that was so that all 5 stories of the very tall house would fit. The noises are written out in the illustrations, with each piling on top of the other, until the book is visually as noisy as the very tall house. Then, as it quiets down again, each layer of noise visually gets erased as well. Very effective.
This one would be great for a group setting (sometimes I really miss doing storytimes at the library!) It's got a call-and-response rhythm to it. Even at home, your kids will have fun chiming in on all the noises. It has a funny little twist at the end, too.
Juvenile Nonfiction Books
Photographs showcase several different types of houses spanning the globe, from yurts to igloos to tonganakans.
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Though this is labelled as a Level 1 reader for beginners, I would hand it to intermediate readers instead. Each 2-page spread has 3-4 sentences, with many longer words interspersed, for example: "boardwalks," "imagine," and "material," among others.
My one complaint is that it doesn't say where the various houses are located, or who builds them.
[picture not available]
Living Long Ago: Homes and Houses, by Helen Edom
Starting from 40,000 years ago and working forward, this book explores various types of shelter through the ages. The format reminded me of a Magic School Bus book, with many different text boxes on each 2-page spread offering more information, or craft project to do. The illustrations are drawn, with each element labelled. It mostly focuses on civilizations of Europe, including a castle, a Roman town house, Dutch merchants' houses, and so on.
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This one would be great for homeschoolers, or those very interested in this subject. Most elementary-aged kids will probably need an adult to read it with them or to them. It could be a bit overwhelming for all but the strongest readers.
Illustrated by Akira Nishiyama
This book is like a "best parts" combination of the previous two! It begins with a 2-page photograph of people next to their home, along with a paragraph stating where it is, and what happened when the author visited.
Then you turn the page and the next 2-page spread is a cut-away drawing of the dwelling, including a handful of text boxes describing what things are. Each drawn page also has a small box at the top with the question "Who lives here?" and the answer, for instance, "A father, a mother, and three children."
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We really loved this one and spent quite a bit of time finding all the details in the cutaway drawings.
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What about for you? What do you do to make a house feel like home?