cover image A House That Once Was

A House That Once Was

Julie Fogliano, illus. by Lane Smith. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-62672-314-6

In this lyrical meditation by Fogliano (When’s My Birthday?), two children discover an empty, derelict house: “Deep in the woods/ is a house/ just a house/ that once was / but now isn’t/ a home.” Smith (Grandpa Green) draws the surrounding forest in bursts of texture and color, but when the children enter the house and wander through the rooms, the color fades and things take on a ghostly dimension. “Who was this someone who ate beans for dinner/ who sat by this fire/ who looked in this mirror?” Especially spooky are the photographic collage details showing the faces of the home’s long-ago residents. The moodiness lifts as the guessing grows silly, and Smith’s spreads switch to richer color, depth, and playful caricature: “Was it a man with a big beard and glasses who would look out the window and dream of the sea?” Sensitive readers may be put off by the story’s eerier suggestions (“Or what if they’re lost and they’re wandering lonely?”), while those who share a fascination with abandoned places will be entranced. Ages 3–6. [em]Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May) [/em]