cover image The Ramble Shamble Children

The Ramble Shamble Children

Christina Soontornvat, illus. by Lauren Castillo. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-17632-6

“Down the mountain, across the creek, past the last curve in the road,” five children with varying skin tones live together in a “ramble shamble” house where there’s always plenty of work to do. Reading a book they find in the attic, they discover a picture that gives them pause: “Oh, that’s what a proper house looks like,” says Merra, the oldest, musing at its white porch and neat yard. Together, they decide to “proper up” their home. Finn builds a pink Victorian chicken coop. Locky and Roozle, who care for the vegetable garden, erect a scarecrow and plant roses. Merra gets rid of the puddle where the baby, Jory, previously “looked after the mud.” But the improvements bring their own trouble, culminating in the discovery that Jory is missing (though it doesn’t take long to find him). Sweet-tempered writing by Newbery Honoree Soontornvat and affectionate spreads by Caldecott Honoree Castillo make it clear that the ramble shamble house, with no parents in sight, is perfect the way it is. Looking after the garden and the chickens is hard work, but the children are free to make their own decisions, and to change their minds, too. The underlying Pippi Longstocking–style setting—children living and thriving together—could easily sustain further episodes. Ages 3–7. [em]Author’s agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. Author’s agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary. (Mar.) [/em]