cover image The Lost and Found House

The Lost and Found House

Michael Cadnum. Viking Children's Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84884-3

Respecting the anxiety that accompanies a move, Cadnum's (Taking It) introspective debut picture book pulls few punches. As movers haul away furniture, the narrator tries to picture his family's new house, but although he has seen it months earlier, ""it has no color and it keeps changing shape."" His uncertainty deepens during the overnight journey to the new house, and his initial exploration isn't immediately reassuring: he comments on weeds in the yard, an abandoned rubber ball, a rusty bucket and a broken faucet. Johnson and Fancher (My Many Colored Days) mirror the somber mood. At first their paintings, blurry and shadowy, emphasize empty space--much like the house the family is departing, and much like the narrator's emotional state. But as the family enters the new town, the muted palette begins to gain color and the compositions become peopled (with children playing in a schoolyard; with friendly next-door neighbors; with the boy's parents). The first night is tense, but the next day brings relief: sunlight pours through the curtainless windows and the child responds to the neighbor kids' invitation to play. While Cadnum spends a great deal of time calibrating distress, children facing a move of their own will appreciate his honesty in setting forth the narrator's feelings--and are therefore likely to trust in the author's cautiously achieved happy ending. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)