cover image The Old House

The Old House

Pamela Duncan Edwards, , illus. by Henry Cole. . Dutton, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-47796-9

A woefully neglected clapboard house is at the center of this straightforward story from the creators of Ms. Bitsy Bat’s Kindergarten . Cole’s visual personifications of the aged home include drooping eyes (two upstairs windows with tattered curtains) and a down-turned mouth (the sagging front stoop). Birds, a squirrel, a tall oak tree and wildflowers in the yard try to cheer up the unhappy old house, to no avail (“I’m so empty inside,” it sobs). When a young family appears and contemplates purchasing it, the house’s friends urge it to “Stand tall!”, “Get a grip on yourself” and “Twinkle your windows!” Through his use of color and light in particular—the family, bright in clothing and outlook, shine against the house’s oppressive dourness, which is emphasized by its muddy brown walls—Cole effectively conveys the changing tenor of the tale. Readers should readily pick up on the numerous themes Edwards balances: finding value below the surface and the importance of both friendship and self-esteem. Ages 3-up. (Oct.)