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If You Lived Here

According to my calulations, there are three more books for us to blog about before we finish up our list: If You Lived Here by Giles Laroche; Tweak Tweak by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, and Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes. I’m not sure how many people are online this week — I’m still on vacation — but we’ll try to get these up over the next few days.

If You Lived HereLaroche is one of those consistently good illustrators who doesn’t seem to get much award attention. This might have something to do with the fact that he concentrates on information books and that his medium is similar to Steve Jenkins who DOES get award love from time to time. Jenkins’s books tend to use bolder, larger shapes and feature some really dramatic design choices while Laroche goes for as much detail as he can. How he keeps track of all those little pieces of cut out paper is kind of mind boggling. I’d love to watch over his shoulder as he works someday, but would be afraid that one sneeze could undo hours of work!

Laroche’s style is ideal for a book about different kinds of houses. His art encourages you to look closer and closer until your imagination drops you into the scene and allows you to walk around in it. Some people love doll houses and museum dioramas for the same reason. The three-dimensional bas relief makes you think you really could step through that open door and find a fully furnished room behind it. In Rudine Sims Bishop‘s parlance, this book is both window and mirror. Since the houses are from all over the world, nearly every spread will provide a window on a different way of living. But the inviting accessibility of the art creates a kind of mirror. Or perhaps it’s a mirror that is also a doorway, in the sense that Alice would understand from her travels through the looking glass.

This book as a whole has huge appeal for me and for many others, but I think the Caldecott committee will be more interested in the application of that idea through its illustrations. Being a quiet book — all about the details rather than the flash — it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention this year. But I think it has more staying power than many of the other books we’ve discussed. I can see children recalling these scenes twenty and thirty years in the future when they first visit some of these countries.

But does it have a chance at the Medal? It’s not showing up in the Mocks, but I notice that the books those groups are discussing tend to have more obvious appeal. When I was on the committee, we took the time to look closely at the quiet books, too. Have you had a good look at this one yet? What do you think?


Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Thank you for bringing this title to my attention. I can’t wait to read and pour over a copy. Wishing you a very Happy New Year.

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    That could do more damage than Lolly’s sneeze 😉

  3. Yikes, I guess so…but then again mouth (er fingers on keyboard) speaks before brain engages. Aren’t words wonderful in all their varied meanings?

  4. Lolly,
    I have to admit that this was not one that jumped out at me at first.
    But, then I looked again (and again) to see what the fuss is about. In the same way the Salley Mavor wowed me last year with A Pocketful of Posies, Giles Laroche made my jaw drop here. I would love to see these spreads in three dimensions, but my travel budget does not allow a stalking-the-artist-in-Salem, Massachusetts visit.
    The photography is important here. The shadows add depth to the art and force the reader to really SEE every little detail. I much prefer the spreads (like the connected barn, the chateau, the German village, the white town…) where the words are below the art, not in overlaid text boxes. I just keep wanting to know what the words are covering! I also like the continuous lines that layout allows.
    My students are completely captivated with the technique and the concept of the houses.

  5. I appreciated the segues Laroche used to link the dwellings together and the sort of universal through line he creates with them. I don’t have the book in front of me and can’t offer a concrete example. In one case I remember him commenting on the way a house in one area of the world sheltered its domesticated animals and following up with a similar kind of protection in a very different kind of house across the globe. Noting those commonalities reinforced the cultural diversity with an underlying sense of universality. Most of that is communicated in the text and reflected in the illustrations. I don’t know to what degree it counts as Caldecott ammunition, but it certainly makes the book a much greater whole.

  6. The illustrations were lovely, I just wish the text had been in more of a story format rather than an almost encyclopedic presentation. I just felt like there were better ways to connect with the information in the text. I also felt it was rather Euro and North American centric for a book calling itself “houses of the world”.

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