Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Where the Heart Is: The Blue House by Phoebe Wald

Leo lived with his dad, in a old blue house next to a tall fir tree.

The old house has its problems. There are creaks and leaks, and the paint is peeling in some places.

But when the heater breaks down, Dad bakes apple pie so that the oven can warm the kitchen, and Dad plays guitar and old records and they dance to warm up in the living room. In the backyard, the house has a clothesline, his trampoline, and a garden for his cat to hide in and a place to grow tomatoes, and Leo has a window high up in his backyard where he can watch new apartments being built all over the neighborhood.

One day Leo's dad picked him up from school. They got ice cream instead of going home.

"I got a letter from our landlord," Leo's dad said. They have sold our house and are tearing it down. We are going to have to move."

Leo is so angry that he says he will not leave his room so they can't tear it down. Dad is mad, too, and they have a screaming, guitar-shredding, dancing around wildly, MAD party. They feel a little better but they still have to move. Gradually their things begin to disappear into big boxes. Their cat peers suspiciously at the cat carrier in the living room. Soon their house is not really their house, just empty closets and cold floors and bare walls.

"Let's paint on them!" said Dad."

Their mural of their garden makes both of them a little less sad, but soon it was time for the move to a little white house. It is small, and everything looks out of place in the different rooms. But the cat is happy to get out of the carrier, Leo jumps on his trampoline and swings in his swing in the new backyard, and Leon and Dad play their music and dance like they always liked to do. And looking at the bare walls in his new bedroom, Leo has a new idea. He and his dad paint the little blue house with its tall fir tree there, just as they remember it, theirs to remember together always.

It's home, again, a new beginning, in Phoebe Wald's, The Blue House (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020), in a poignant story of making a house a home which has been likened to Virginia Lee Burton's class Caldecott Medal book, The Little House. Wald's charming illustrations and sensitive look at a father and son who learn that the important thing is not where they live, but to be together wherever they live, to make common memories of their lives together. Home is where the heart is, and the heart is wherever the ones you love are. This book shares a timeless but reassuring message that helps children deal with change. In their starred review, Horn Book calls this one “An affecting story about loss and starting over.”

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