The Aunt in Our House

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Johnson's (Julius; Toning the Sweep) cryptic tale suggests questions, then leaves it wholly to the reader to answer them. Told by the older of two siblings who live with their white father and African American mother, the story opens on an affectionate note: "The sun shines brighter through the front window in our house since The Aunt came. It makes us warmer in winter." The child tells how The Aunt helps Mama weave blankets and rugs, lets the youngsters play her trumpet and encourages them to splash in puddles barefoot. Yet this apparently sunny woman spends some days gazing silently out the window, which brings the nebulous comment from Mama that The Aunt misses her home. Intentionally vague, the text leaves readers wondering why and for how long the Aunt has come to stay, and why she is occasionally so sad. Well-matched to the expressiveness of the narrative, Soman's (illustrator of Johnson's The Leaving Morning, see p.106) watercolor and pastel illustrations appear to move in and out of focus, depending on the mood of the moment, and effectively convey the characters' changeable emotions. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Judy Katsh
As real life family configurations become more and more varied, it's nice to see picture books mirroring that trend. Here's an intact family that's loving and open-minded enough to welcome an adult newcomer to the fold. Why she's come and for how long is unclear both to the family and to the readers. But for now, and however much longer, she's welcome in their home and in their hearts. It's a loving and lovely book with multi-racial illustrations that reflect that tone.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3 "The Aunt" comes to stay with the narrator's family, and "me and Sister" appreciate her mysterious presence. The siblings' parents are artists; their white father paints the woman's portrait while their African American mother teaches her to weave. Readers recognize and care about this family from page to page, but there are many questions that the text does not answer. Is The Aunt really Daddy's sister, or is the title conferred by love? And why is she there? Young children often accept house guests without question, as do these characters. But readers may wonder what is really going on in this enigmatic tale. Soman's well-designed watercolor-and-pastel illustrations render faces authentically and attractively. Whatever the reason for The Aunt's arrival, this exuberant family happily absorbs the woman's trumpet playing, tolerates her moods sympathetically, and appreciates the sun finally shining in her face. Curious readers will just have to trust that everything works out.Susan Hepler, Alexandria City Public Schools, VA
Hazel Rochman
A small boy and his sister like it when Daddy's adult sister comes to live with them. The aunt (who's white) finds a place in this happy biracial family: she plays the trumpet and gives the boy and girl lessons. She splashes with them in the biggest puddles. Daddy paints her picture. She helps Mama with her weaving, and they laugh together and listen to the radio. But sometimes the aunt is sad and stares out the window all day. She misses her home, Mama says. Soman's pictures in watercolor and pastel are fresh with the summer greens and flowers of this comfortable house in the country. Words and portraits of the casual, funny young woman are affectionate and poignant, true to the child's viewpoint. Many kids will relate to the story of an adult they love but whose sadness they can't fully understand.
Kirkus Reviews
A restrained, somewhat sorrowful work from two frequent collaborators (The Leaving Morning, 1992, etc.). A brother narrates the changes he and his younger sister observe in their biracial household when their aunt—their father's sister—comes to stay. The text is spare: "She brought a fish in a bowl/and a chair that she sat under a tree./ She said that we were hers now./The Aunt was ours too./So we watched the Aunt in our house." There is an undertone of abiding sadness here: "But sometimes/The Aunt in our house/is quiet/and looks out the window all day."

In some ways, the art outshines the text. The paintings, a happy marriage of pastel and watercolor, are immediate and exquisitely rendered. They provide the first clues that all is not well with the aunt; the two children are always engaging, anchoring all that is left unsaid to real people. Readers never know why the aunt has come to stay, but they will certainly understand that the family's life is enhanced by her presence in this subtle and affecting work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780531095027
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.23 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.36 (d)

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