cover image This House, Once

This House, Once

Deborah Freedman. Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4284-8

Freedman (Shy) lyrically meditates on the origins of a house. “This door was once a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue,” she writes, opposite a spare, clean drawing of a door against a white backdrop. A page turn reveals the giant oak, the door traced within its trunk to show where it used to be. The stones that make the house’s foundation “were once below, underground, deep asleep,” and readers see a cross-section of the ground the stones were dug from. While the house takes shape, a kitten, frog, and yellow bird play as the leaves fall; fog overtakes them, and gray wash and muted textures herald the arrival of winter. The door opens, and readers join the kitten indoors: “Lights, doorknob, bookshelf, under-the-stair... What were these all, once?” Freedman’s gentle inquiry is drawn with exquisite precision and quiet dashes of humor, and it will leave children thinking about the way their own houses are an extension of the natural world, with “memories” of the resources used to bring them into existence. Ages 4–8. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Feb.)