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OPINION | READ TO ME: An abandoned old house finds its forever family

by Celia Storey | April 12, 2021 at 1:53 a.m.
"The House of Grass and Sky" by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by E.B. Goodale (Candlewick Press, April 13, 2021) ages 4-8, 32 pages, &17.99. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

“The House of Grass and Sky” by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by E.B. Goodale (Candlewick Press, April 13), ages 4-8, 32 pages, $17.99.

STORY: This is a story about a house with emotions.

Built in a rural beauty spot when women wore long dresses and bonnets, the wooden house has been home to a parade of happy families. One day, the last family moves out, and the house stands empty. It expects another family to move in soon, because one always has before, but everyone who visits rejects it as too small or too old.

Between rejections, the house is melancholy. In the end, the right family moves in, but until then, there’s worrisome suspense.

The situation is reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton’s “The Little House, Her Story” (1942), which also anthropomorphizes a rural house left behind by the march of time. But in Burton’s book, the encroachment of a loud city is the problem, and the city is a bad place. That house is saved when she’s hauled out of town.

Mary Lyn Ray’s house is an “it,” but its plight feels worse than what happens to Burton’s little house because the focus is on repeated rejection.

In E.B. Goodale’s moody illustrations, house and setting retain beauty to match Ray’s words. When winter sets in, the empty house remembers pink roses, and in the spring, roses bloom and the air smells pink. Goodale’s illustrations convey so much feeling that tenderhearted children will worry while the house stands alone.

This book should please the family that lives in an old house, and it doesn’t demonize city life.

Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.

Print Headline: READ TO ME/OPINION


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