Review of Farmhouse

by Sophie Blackall; illus. by the author
Primary    Little, Brown    48 pp.    g
9/22    978-0-316-52894-8    $18.99

Blackall brings herself and her artistic process into this (imagined) story of twelve siblings who grow up in a real-life farmhouse that was situated on a property Blackall owns. The text is one long sentence with the cadence of a chant, giving the story a propulsive feeling while the family goes about the many repetitive chores required to keep a large household running in a time before electricity. Blackall’s illustrations are everything here, incorporating wallpaper, fabrics, and other items scavenged from the house melded together with ink, watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil to create vibrantly layered compositions with a tactile quality. Landscape spreads echo the curves and patterns of Virginia Lee Burton’s similarly themed classic The Little House, and interiors are depicted in cross-sections, as if readers are peeking inside a dollhouse. Eventually the children grow up and move away; the house, now empty, deteriorates, and new life—raccoons, a tree, a bear—moves in. Blackall devotes the last few pages to her own discovery and exploration of the dilapidated structure and how she created the art that shapes this story of a place “where twelve children were born and raised…where they’ll live on, now, in this book that you hold, like your stories will, so long as they’re told.”

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Adrienne L. Pettinelli

Adrienne L. Pettinelli is the director of the Henrietta (NY) Public Library. She has served on several book award committees, including the 2015 Caldecott Committee, and is the author of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library (2008).

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