Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This is the Home That We Built: This House, Once by Deborah Freeman

This door was once a colossal oak tree.
A tree with a door in its trunk.
These stones were once below, underground, deep, sleeping.
Tucked under a blanket of leaves.

In a way, a house is a slumbering possibility, waiting for the magic of the builder, who sees its boards and door in the tree, its bricks in the clay in the soil, and its foundation in the stones lying within the waiting earth.

From those potentialities the builder assembles the house, put together by human hands that know what to do.

And inside that framework of the house is a lively home, where a child learns how it all came together to provide a cozy, fire-warmed shelter.

This house remains
Drowsy with dreams
That drifted in the door...
That once was an oak.

In the notable author-illustrator Deborah Freeman's This House, Once (Atheneum Press, 2017), she gives us the house as a human product, yet also a natural thing, a product of the tree and the soil and the stones that go into it--a piece of nature and yet a human artifact, but one endowed with the spirit of what went into it.

Freeman's carefully chosen language is lyrical, hinting at the essence of house and home, with lovely images of sleeping stones and walls created, in a parallel creation story, from the clay hidden in the soil as well as with a spirit essence added by those who live there. Freedman's illustrations are both solid and yet veiled in a light wash of gauzy color that emphasizes the symbolism of the home, corporal and yet also imbued with the spirit of those who live within and give it life. Children will feel that symbolism, that spirit expressed in the old saw, "It takes a lot of living to make a house a home." It takes both material structure and family life, and Freedman's artwork provides a good picture of process of construction as well as conveying the immaterial zeitgeist that a lived-in place acquires over time.

Kirkus Reviews nails it, saying, [This book] "... emphasizes shelter but also human use of nature, so the feelings of warmth, safety, and coziness hold the faintest tinge of melancholy and loss. Tender, comforting, and complex."



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