Review: Creaky Old House: A Topsy-Turvy Tale of a Real Fixer-Upper
By Linda Ashman (Author), Michael Chesworth (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Sterling (August 4, 2009)
Can a house be the subject of a picture book? Most definitely when you pair up author Linda Ashman and illustrator Michael Chesworth. The team has created a great character: Creaky Old House. Chesworth has used his playful animated water colors to bring this house and its big quirky family to life. Grandma and grandpa love to jitterbug in the parlor. Uncle Bob is busy in the attic with his model trains. Four energetic and curious siblings scamper about with their large shaggy dog in tow. Even the parents are unique. It took me a while to convince my daughter that Pa really was the father. Photo portraits of the family in the end papers proved helpful.
The setting is rural. The season is autumn with all its lovely warm hues. I like this house where rest is valued and leaves are left un-raked. Ma reads a book while sipping tea, and clutter happens as the family enjoys each other’s company. Ashman’s text, with its rollicking rhythm, is fun to read– that is once your eyes adjust to the bumpy type face.
The tale begins when a screw is lost and the family joins forces to fix the front door knob. Events snow ball, and soon the family is collaborating on a remodel. Yet, all the while one family member stays fixed to the actual task and solves it–with ingenuity and sacrifice I might add. Grand renovation schemes are abandoned. They realize their shambolic house is perfect as is and celebrate together with refreshments on their sloping front porch.
The book’s pages are chock full of activity and detail. A curious listener will make the reader pause as the text sets him searching the inked drawings. A couple of pages feature a cross section of the house where you can linger and explore the many rooms.
For me this book speaks to valuing old things, appreciating weathered charm and memories over newer, bigger, better. Perhaps, the sub-title was selected for the adults. It is also very much about families coming together to find a solution, taking votes and holding hands. One of my favorite illustrations shows the family walking duck-style over an old stone bridge. Down below in the river, a duck family mirrors the image.
If you like Phyllis Root’s Rattletrap Car or Cynthia Rylant’s The Relatives Came, you will enjoy this new picture book from Sterling.
Add this book to your collection: Creaky Old House: A Topsy-Turvy Tale of a Real Fixer-Upper
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