cover image Our Old House

Our Old House

Susan Vizurraga. Henry Holt & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-3911-5

In her lyrical, nostalgic debut book, Vizurraga writes in the voice of an unnamed girl whose family has moved into a Victorian house that ""used to belong to someone else."" The girl finds signs of former owners in unexpected places: the name ""Ruth"" scratched into the kitchen door, a ""cracked glass marble with a swirl of green inside"" buried in the dirt and vestiges of a former vegetable garden next to a fence. When an elderly woman who once lived in the house pays a visit, the young narrator asks her about Ruth, the garden and what it was like to live in the house. Some readers may be disappointed that the author chooses not to explain what the woman knows of the house's history, although this tactic does allow them to piece together their own picture of its past. The text is set into Baker's (The Third-Story Cat) soft, hazy watercolors, which move gracefully from past to present and reveal some charming scenes, including a sylvan rendering of the narrator lounging on a porch swing and poring over trinkets from bygone times. But on many spreads the art has an unfinished quality, evident in stiff, sketchy figures, faces without definition and a surfeit of bare space. Though a dab of polish to both narrative and artwork would have made this a more memorable work, Vizurraga and Baker provide an appealing glimpse of a home's lasting legacy. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)