The Children’s Book Review | July 7, 2016
Written and Illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Age Range: 4-9
Hardback: 48 pages
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers (2013)
What to expect: Building, Family, Patience, Cooperation, Work, Seasons
Jonathan Bean (Big Snow) takes his readers on a journey to the countryside in Building Our House.
Building Our House chronicles one family’s step-by-step process of constructing a home from the ground up. A young girl (who narrates the story) moves with her mother, father, and baby brother from the city to the country. When they arrive at their plot of land (via a truck named “Willys”), there are no buildings in sight. The family lives in a trailer while they begin to build their forever home. Over the course of about eighteen months, the little family of four enlists the help of neighbors and relatives to make their dream home a reality. Setbacks occur (in the form of early frost and snow) and work happens at all hours, but the house still grows steadily (as does the mother’s pregnant belly). Finally, on an early spring day, the little family (of five, now that there is a newborn in the mix) officially moves into their from-scratch house, tired but completely content.
Building Our House is based on Bean’s own childhood experience, which he discusses at the book’s end. Perhaps Bean’s closeness to the story is what makes the writing so effective. The young daughter’s narration strikes the perfect balance between simple vocabulary and interesting detail. As in his other books, Bean’s evocative illustrations beautifully enhance his story. Not only do the pictures serve to better explain the building process, but they also perfectly capture the feelings of each season and the coziness of family.
Building Our House is a treasure trove of lessons for children, from the concrete (building a house takes time and work) to the abstract (cooperation and patience are invaluable when working toward a goal). Bean’s story opens children’s eyes to the real work that goes into any structure and gives them appreciation for that hard work. In this day of instant gratification from our DVRs, our tablets, and our phones, Building Our House offers all of us a welcome (and much-needed) change of perspective.
Add this book to your collection: Building Our House
About Jonathan Bean
JONATHAN BEAN received an M.F.A. from New York’s School of Visual Arts and now lives and works in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His first book, At Night, won the 2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and he is also the illustrator of two acclaimed picture books by Lauren Thompson, The Apple Pie That Papa Baked and One Starry Night. Jonathan’s parents still live in the house the family built, outside of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania.
“Building Our House,” written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean, was reviewed by Kelley Smith. Discover more books like “Building Our House” by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Building, Career Books, Changing Seasons Books, Cooperation, Family, and Jonathan Bean.