cover image The Great Blue House

The Great Blue House

Kate Banks, , illus. by Georg Hallensleben. . FSG/Foster, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32769-9

In books such as The Night Worker and The Cat Who Walked Across France , Banks and Hallensleben draw attention to small details and things that happen while people are sleeping or distracted. This gentle book visits a spacious, robin's egg–blue house where children's "voices rise into the air like a dandelion puff" in the summertime. When vacation ends, the family locks up and goes away, and the house looks still and adrift in tall, tropical-green grass: "All is quiet at the great blue house. Or is it?" Readers discover that, without humans in residence, off-season inhabitants such as a mouse, bird and marmalade cat come and go. (The expansive two-story home allows for separate quarters, although some readers may wonder what the cat eats and why the bird does not migrate.) Banks's narrative concentrates on tiny sounds like the faucet dripping and the mouse "finishing off the last crumbs from summer. Listen to him nibbling." Readers hear the "buckle and crack" of frost on the windows and the purr of a stray cat when the snow falls outside. The book concerns an empty house and the inevitable passing of time, but Banks's soft phrasing and Hallensleben's velvety, blurred paintings make the place seem pillowy and inviting in deepest winter. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)