February 10, 2012
Our Best Book of the Library Haul: Our House by Emma and Paul Rogers, Priscilla Lamont
I love picture books that show the passage of time, the largeness of history and our relative smallness (but our place nonetheless) in the scheme. And of course, I also love house books, so Emma and Paul Rogers’ Our House, which is illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, was inevitably going to be a delight. The illustrations are very Ahlberg-meets-Shirley Hughes, and the sense of place and history in the text is similar to Virginia Lee Burton’s in The Little House and Life Story. The book is made up of four pretty ordinary domestic stories taking place in 1780, 1840, 1910, and 1990, each showing subtle changes in the house and surrounding area, and also the lifestyles of its changing inhabitants. The final story shows an awareness of the people who’d lived in the house before, as the family, whilst searching for an errant pet mouse, finds bits of history under floorboards and in backs of cupboards. (“We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those left behind.”– Tom Stoppard, Arcadia.) There is no supernatural element at work here, but the connection between the child in the first story and the child at the end reminded me of my favourite time out of time novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden, Charlotte Sometimes, and A Handful of Time. And of course, we love the pictures where the house’s fourth wall has come away and we can see its skeleton, under its floorboard, plumbing, all the rooms and the people who make their lives inside them.
Bonus: Our best short film of the library haul appeared on the very excellent Harry the Dirty Dog DVD by Scholastic, and is the excellent “I Want a Dog” by Sheldon Cohen. Based on the book by Dayal Kaur Khalsa, narrated by Marnie McPhail (who was Annie Edison!!), and with a soundtrack by Neko Case, it’s absolutely wonderful AND you can watch it on the National Film Board of Canada website!