The Children’s Book Review | July 29, 2019
Written by Julie Fogliano
Illustrated by Lane Smith
Age Range: 3-6
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (May 1, 2018)
What to Expect: Rhythm and Imagination
Have you ever walked or driven past an abandoned house and wondered, “Why is it deserted? “or “Who used to live here?”
A House That Once Was is a story about a deserted house that takes place deep in the woods. From a distance, two small children inquisitively gaze at this house that is “leaning”, “once painted blue” and “peeling”. Piqued by their wonder of who might have once lived in this house; the children decide to enter the house through a door that “is not open but barely” and “once painted white”. They discover a house that was once a home.
As the children explore, they find fading photographs on the wall, old furniture and once used items. The young children’s imaginations soar as they ask themselves about the people who once lived in this house. “Why did they leave this house that was once a home and where were they going?”, “Did they run off and not say goodbye?” This story is full of promise! Because there is no right or wrong answer, the author and illustrator take the reader on an adventure of a myriad of possibilities. Did the family get lost in the woods? Are they in Paris painting by the river?
This story is timeless and has a magical feel to it that can be felt by both child and adult. Although the target age group is 3-6, due to the vast potential of carryover activities, this book would be a wonderful addition to any elementary school library or classroom.
Buy the Book
Discussion Questions: What makes a home? This is a wonderful question to ask your children as you are reading this book to them. Is it the photos on the wall? The furniture? How do the children know this was once a home?
After reading this book, a child can create their own story about a house that they have found deserted. Let them create possibilities of who lived in this house and where they might be now. This can be a creative exercise that incorporates drawing, writing and sharing stories between students.
When reading this book to my children, I stopped, paused and used “think aloud” strategies as well as other evidenced based read aloud tips such as using gestures (e.g. opening the window and door slowly with your hands), print referencing (e.g. pointing to specific words as I am reading them) and using different prompts to elicit language.
About the Author
Julie Fogliano is the New York Times–bestselling author of And Then It’s Spring and If You Want to See a Whale, as well as the poetry collection, When Green Becomes Tomatoes. Recipient of the 2013 Ezra Jack Keats Award, her books have been translated into more than ten languages. Julie lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and three children. When she is not folding laundry or wondering what to make for dinner, she is staring out the window waiting for a book idea to fly by.
About the Illustrator
Lane Smith is the author and illustrator of Caldecott Honor book Grandpa Green, runaway New York Times bestseller It’s a Book, Kate Greenaway Medalist There Is a Tribe of Kids, and A Perfect Day, among others. He was named the 2012 Carle Artist and received the 2014 Society of Illustrators lifetime achievement award. He lives in an old house in Connecticut with the designer Molly Leach.
A House That Once Was, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith, was reviewed by Rebecca Eisenberg. Discover more books like A House That Once Was by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Imagination, Julie Fogliano, Lane Smith, and Picture Book.