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“The home should be the treasure chest of living,” said Le Corbusier. For children, their home is just such a treasure chest, as well as the setting of many adventures. It’s also their first introduction to architecture, and it leaves lasting impressions that will influence how they view their world. Below is a roundup of 11 engaging books that introduce children to homes real and imagined, near and far, and wacky and whimsical, but all wonderful in their own way.
The Little House is a heartwarming and at times melancholy tale about a modest cottage that watches her idyllic country setting slowly turn into a bustling 1940s metropolis. This book, published in 1942, is the oldest one on our list. Its lovely watercolor illustrations and meandering story teach children about how homes (and society) change over time and that just because something is old doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.
Margaret Wise Brown’s iconic Goodnight Moon is set in a panoramic illustration of a child’s nursery room, tapping into the safe and familiar feelings even very young children have when in their own space. With its vibrant colors, gentle rhythm and smaller size for infant hands, the board book version is perfect for the littlest ones in the house.
This debut picture book from the artist for the band The Decemberists is filled with fairy-tale-like paintings of homes of all sorts: simple homes, floating homes, secret homes and silly homes; homes where bees live, where a Japanese businessman lives and where the artist herself lives; and fantastical homes whose locations and occupants are a mystery. Released on February 24, 2015, Home is a visual treat that leaves plenty of room for imagination.
Exquisitely crafted as bas-relief cut-paper collages, the scenes in Giles Laroche’s If You Lived Here highlight housing styles through history and cultures. Younger children will have fun looking through the detailed activities of the inhabitants on each page. Older kids will enjoy the in-depth information listed for each building and historical era. Adults will love it all.
For your little budding architect, contractor, electrician or surveyor, Gail Gibbons’ How a House Is Built demonstrates the process and the people behind the building of a house. Easy to read and with smart descriptions, this is a fun book for inquisitive kids and for adults who need to brush up on their construction knowledge.
If you could design anything you wanted in a house, what would you do? Chris Van Dusen’s book lets kids contemplate just that. A regular ol’ living room becomes a springy, spinning jungle gym where it’s perfectly acceptable to have a fish pond in the middle of the floor. And a racetrack room — complete with loop-de-loops and a giant glass skylight — is an obvious necessity. It’s a great book that encourages kids to let their imaginations go crazy, especially if read in conjunction with the practical How a House Is Built.
When a crafty seagull drops a bucket of paint on Mr. Plumbean’s roof, he and his neighbors must face the idea that their “neat street” of identical houses is not so neat anymore. Celebrating creativity in the face of criticism, The Big Orange Splot encourages children to have confidence in their own unique style.
Sometimes home is not just one place. In Two Homes, a sweet and comforting book about divorce, little Alex explains what he likes about Daddy’s Home and Mommy’s Home. He has two of everything: two bedrooms for playing, two kitchens for cooking and two each of the smaller everyday items that toddlers find comfort in, like toothbrushes and coatracks.
As cozy and safe as a home can feel, little imaginations often run amok when the lights go out. Laszlo’s house (a character in itself) is bright and warm in the daylight, but transforms at night when The Dark creeps out of its usual lair, the basement. But when Laszlo’s nightlight burns out one evening, The Dark befriends him in an attempt to calm his fears. It’s an all-too-familiar situation for kids, one that hopefully becomes less scary once they realize that home is home no matter what time of day or night and that The Dark is just a shy and considerate friend.
Cheeky and incredibly drawn, Sky High is a lesson for kids about silly competition and blind ambition. Two neighbors battle each other page by page in a quest to build the tallest labyrinthine home, until one finally becomes the victor. Throughout the book are witty details and amusing dialogue, gems of text that kids will probably overlook but that adults will quietly appreciate.
A coloring book for architecturally minded young artists, Draw Me a House
introduces kids to iconic homes in history — both famous, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
, and familiar, like brick row houses and backyard tree houses. The sketch-like illustrations turn even the fanciest of buildings into fun blank canvases. A lime-green Chrysler Building with purple spots? Sure, why not?
Honorable mention from the poet’s corner: “There’s a Polar Bear,
Honorable mention from the archives: No longer in print, this Theo LeSieg (aka Dr. Seuss) story joyfully introduces kids to homes around the world, where children just like them live and play. The colorful, cheerful illustrations match the happiness of the book’s main character as he meets friends and has play time in new, yet not so different from his own, houses in faraway places.
In our Frigidaire —
He likes it ’cause it’s cold in there.”
It’s hard to avoid giggling while reading Shel Silverstein’s simultaneously silly and smart poetry. His poems speak of moments familiar to children, and ones about home are sprinkled throughout each of his books. Whether it’s a messy room or a light in the attic, Silverstein gets to the heart of what kids see in their worlds.