Review of A House

A House
by Kevin Henkes; illus. by the author
Preschool    Greenwillow    32 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-06-309260-0    $18.99
Library ed.  978-0-06-309261-7    $19.89

Meet a house created out of simple forms and sturdy lines and nestled within a bordered square in a solid pastel blue space. The text (“A house”) is placed on the page opposite the image, centered in abundant white space. As we turn pages, images and text alternate between recto and verso as the background colors shift. The house remains our focus throughout as elements around it change: we see the house in the morning, at night, with the sun, with the moon, in rain and snow, and more. Henkes uses the question-and-answer format to invite readers into the story (“Where are the puddles? Which one is biggest?”), and the questions prompt discussions about concepts such as shapes, the passage of time, ­counting, weather, colors, and size differences. When a family (complete with a dog and cat), rendered as simply shaped toy figurines, approaches and enters the house, it becomes a “home.” While perfect for children at the very earliest stages of literacy, the book also works as a read-aloud to share with toddlers. Phrases and sentences are plainly constructed (“Where is the sun? Is it up?”), and illustrations and text work in concert to engage readers and listeners. The pacing and palette are gentle; the compositions are uncluttered and eye-catching; the style conveys Henkes’s (2020 winner of the Children’s Literature Legacy Award) signature elegance; and the ending will have children pondering precisely what makes a “house” a “home.” Brilliant.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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