cover image This Is Our House

This Is Our House

Michael Rosen. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-870-9

Rosen and Graham (Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten) use a light touch to deliver an important lesson. In the shadows of an apartment complex, redheaded George sits in his cardboard-box house and won't let any of his multicultural cadre of friends come near it. He bans them for different but always personal reasons--because they're girls, or too small, or wear glasses, etc. George's friends try to get him to open up his house by weaving him into their play: ""We're coming in to fix the fridge,"" announce twins Charlene and Marlene, while Luther sends his toy airplane crashing into the house and tells George that he must rescue it. But George will not budge until, finally, nature calls. Taking over the house, his friends turn the tables on George and force him to see the error of his ways. Rosen has an instinctive feel for the way children confront one another, ponder, negotiate and form alliances--every word of the trenchant text rings true. Graham's squiggly, cartoon-like illustrations convey George's physically aggressive stubbornness and the dismay of his friends, but leaven the scenes with imaginative details. On the other hand, Graham risks subverting Rosen's message on the last spread: when the entire gang finally convenes in the ""house,"" the box proves a little too small after all--it falls apart. Ages 3-6. (July)