Building Our House

Building Our House

by Jonathan Bean

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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Winner of the 2013 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013

In this unique construction book for kids who love tools and trucks, readers join a girl

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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Winner of the 2013 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013

In this unique construction book for kids who love tools and trucks, readers join a girl and her family as they pack up their old house in town and set out to build a new one in the country. Mom and Dad are going to make the new house themselves, from the ground up. From empty lot to finished home, every stage of their year-and-a-half-long building project is here. And at every step their lucky kids are watching and getting their hands dirty, in page after page brimming with machines, vehicles, and all kinds of house-making activities!

As he imagines it through the eyes of his older sister, Building Our House is Jonathan Bean's retelling of his own family's true experience, and includes an afterword with photographs from the author's collection.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Rebecca Traister
…wonderful…The book, with its detailed images of playful children, nerdy father, bespectacled mom and snoozy cat…is suffused with the cozy self-sufficiency of a Laura Ingalls Wilder tale. Children will enjoy the comforting solidity of shoring up foundations and sawing strong boards.
The Washington Post - Krisi Elle Jemtegaard
This vision of an entire family working together to create a life and a place in the world is as satisfyingly solid as the stone foundation upon which their home is built.
Publishers Weekly
Not unlike Dan Yaccarino did in All the Way to America, Bean (At Night) turns family history into something larger, in this case a romantic portrait of the rewards of diligence, teamwork, and a DIY mentality. In a concluding note accompanied by family photos, Bean explains that the story is based on his family’s experience of building a farmhouse when he was a toddler. A sense of familial dedication and cohesiveness fills the pages, with narration coming from a character modeled after Bean’s older sister. The pale, matte illustrations are a flurry of activity (and filled with the sort of construction details that children adore), as the family equips a trailer to serve as temporary digs, buys lumber, builds a foundation, hosts a frame-raising party, and eventually turns to interior work. Bean’s pictures provide a supplementary visual narrative (Mom becomes pregnant, an infant appears), and the father offers suitably dadlike truisms like “The right tool for the right job” throughout. A warm look at the nuts and bolts of building a house and turning it into a home. Ages 3–6. Agent: Anna Webman, Curtis Brown. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Cheryl Williams Chang
This lovely picture book details the changes a little girl experiences when her family moves from the city to the country. The family lives in a trailer while building their home from the ground up. Over the course of a year and a half, this family of four spends their days lovingly constructing their home. A wild cat becomes an integral part of this family, seeming to grow more friendly with each page, and ultimately, residing with the family in their house. The kitty can be found on almost every page, which creates a nice search-and-find addition to this story. Additionally, both mom and kitty become pregnant during the course of the story, creating a full-circle effect at the conclusion of this adorable story. The illustrations are gorgeous and rich in color. The text is simple and clear. This book provides a wonderful look at how a family can work together to make something beautiful and strong. One of the most amazing parts to this story, as noted at the end of the book, is that its basis is autobiographical; the author lived in a trailer with his two other siblings, mom, and dad for five years during the construction of their home. I highly recommend this book for elementary school social studies or reading classrooms, as well as libraries. Reviewer: Cheryl Williams Chang
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—A year-and-a-half-long adventure of building a cozy home in the countryside involves an entire family of four. The oldest child describes the construction of the house, expertly shown in appealing soft-colored illustrations that vary in size from full spreads to small vignettes. Water and electricity are shown being connected to a temporary home in a trailer so the family can live on the property while the work is being done. Friends and family help out from time to time during the creation of the small timber-frame home, but the girl's parents perform the majority of work on their own (a third child arrives in the course of the story). Engaging pictures are reminiscent of Lisa Campbell Ernst's charming illustrations and are based on the building of the author/illustrator's childhood home. An author's note includes Bean's family photographs. Lovingly told, this captivating tale will help satisfy a child's curiosity of what it takes to create a building from scratch.—Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
Bean sets aside the urban setting of his Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner, At Night (2007), in this homage to his back-to-the-land parents, who built his childhood home in the 1970s. Told from the perspective of Bean's older sister, the story revels in the practical work of house-building, demystifying the stages of construction in a matter-of-fact, engaging tone. The oversized, portrait format echoes the height of the house the family builds, but front endpapers first show a vast, rural landscape in the foreground of which lies the "weedy field Dad and Mom bought from a farmer." Frontmatter depicts them packing and leaving the city. Ensuing spreads detail how they live in a trailer on their new property while slowly building the house: setting the corners of the foundation; digging out the basement; gathering rocks and using them in the foundation; measuring, marking and cutting timber for the frame; and so on. The scene depicting a frame-raising party situates the little homesteading family in a loving community of relatives and friends who gather to help; then, right after they all move in, the family grows when both Mom and the pet cat have babies. Throughout, the watercolor-and-ink illustrations invite close examination for narrative details such as these while also providing ample visual information about construction. Raise the roof for this picture book. It's something special. (Picture book. 3-8)

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 12.00(h) x 0.60(d)
AD820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 6 Years

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