cover image The House

The House

Roberto Innocenti, illus. by J. Patrick Lewis. Creative Editions, $19.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-56846-201-1

The team behind The Last Resort recounts a century in the life of an Italian farmhouse. The stone farmhouse is long abandoned when a family moves into it in the year 1900. Bountiful harvests give way to the nightmare of two world wars. The first takes the family's father; in the second, refugees stream by the house, their faces, illuminated by firelight, gazing in horror at a sight viewers cannot see. After the mother dies ("The widow's passing is my funeral hour./ A House without a heart is like a flower/ Without the dew,") the house falls into ruin, replaced by a suburban villa. The densely worked pictures recall Brueghel's: each spread contains many small scenes painted with equal care, the scarecrow in the field as vivid as the guests at the wedding feast. Innocenti's willingness to present the grim truths of the century is reflected in Lewis's difficult prose ("Catastrophe, despair and hatred chase/ Victims far from the flames that light my face"). Children eager for stories that echo their own lives may shrink from this, but the tapestrylike paintings will find older fans. Ages 9-up. (Nov.)