STARRED REVIEW
May 2018

Watercolor memories

By Julie Fogliano & Lane Smith
Review by

Two children encounter an abandoned house deep in the woods in this contemplative, enchanting story about memory and the places in between then and now.

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Two children encounter an abandoned house deep in the woods in this contemplative, enchanting story about memory and the places in between then and now.

Writing in rhythmic, fluid verse, Julie Fogliano brings us the inner thoughts of two children who discover a house at the top of a hill, “a house that was once painted blue.” The tone of A House That Once Was is one of mystery and wonder as the children tiptoe toward the house and creep inside. Fogliano’s attentive, evocative writing captures the spectral in-between state of the house and its effect on the children. A door is “closed, but not quite”; the children are “whispering mostly but not really speaking” as they enter; the person who once lived there is “gone but . . . still everywhere.” The children explore what remains in the home and, putting abundant imagination to use, what it tells them about who once lived there. In a series of six spreads, they imagine who that occupant could have been.

Lane Smith’s highly textured illustrations feature faded hues (with subtle pops of color) and more gestural shapes in the interior house spreads. The natural world outside of the home, as well as the spreads showing the imagined occupants, are more vividly colored and showcase bolder lines, as if the memories are sharper than the current moment. (A tiny note on the copyright page indicates that these “present-day” and “imagined” scenes are rendered in two different mediums.)

This is a story that will captivate its readers—much like the house captivates these curious children.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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A House That Once Was

A House That Once Was

By Julie Fogliano & Lane Smith
Roaring Brook
ISBN 9781626723146

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