A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano | SLJ Review

PreS-Gr 3 –A wizard of wordplay and a maestro of composition combine their considerable talents to explore the notion of home.

redstarFOGLIANO, Julie. A House That Once Was. illus. by Lane Smith. 48p. Roaring Brook. May 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781626723146.

PreS-Gr 3 –A wizard of wordplay and a maestro of composition combine their considerable talents to explore the notion of home. With a stylistic nod to e.e. cummings and just enough rhyme to propel the pace and please the ear, Fogliano tracks siblings as they approach and enter an abandoned house. Her lines about the dwelling are a study in contrasts. Once it was, but now it isn’t a home. The boy and girl notice: “A door that is closed but not quite. A door that is stuck between coming and going. A door that was once painted white.” As the children peruse books and objects, they extrapolate conclusions about the owners. Perhaps the man was a sea captain, the woman—a painter. Smith’s complex, layered illustrations first depict an impressionistic forest world, rich with a bouquet of deep, dappled colors. (A note on process adds appreciation.) Lighter wildflowers grace the foreground, and a bluebird—a character to watch—transports a worm. Inside the house, it’s as if the pages have been bleached; sunlight streaming through roof holes renders possessions transparent. Collage elements, such as a mouse poking through a portrait, add humor. As the imagined inhabitants assume center stage, the oil paintings take on more solidity and definition. While the final sentence reinforces the opening message, a concluding iris shot—with bluebird and babies singing merrily on branches that have invaded the structure—suggests an alternate narrative. VERDICT Stirring to the eye and the spirit, this evocative book repays frequent readings. Perfect for one-on-one sharing.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

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