Laroche leads his readers through a world tour of homes describing what it would be like “If you lived here.” The fifteen indigenous houses featured in this nonfiction picture book originated from different eras and cultures, but are still in existence today.
The wide range of house types represented includes a French Chateau, a modern day cave dwelling in Spain, a Fujian Tulou (earthen dwelling) in China, a dogtrot log cabin in the Southern United States, and a decorated house of Ndebele in South Africa. The homes are portrayed through precise cut-paper illustrations (double page spreads of 11 x 20 inches) accompanied by a descriptive passage about living in each house. The copyright page includes a world map that marks the location of these homes across six continents.
Each house description is supplemented with more detailed information in template form using five category headings: house type, materials, location, date, and a fascinating fact. This format allows for easy comparison and contrast of these elements across the different houses. The content is accessible to primary school children, but will also serve the interests of older elementary school students seeking information about different types of houses in our world. The meaning of such building terms as façade and pilings and such cultural names as palafitos (buildings on pilings) and pueblo (small village) are clearly and concisely explained within the text.
While the text is informative, the intricate bas-relief cut-paper illustrations are a masterful feature of this book. The external facades of each house type are set within a geographical context and a sense of everyday living is conveyed through the actions of people in and around their homes. The viewer is also offered glimpses of interior furnishings and family activities through open windows and doors that offer further invitation to step into the scenes.
Homes are a common topic of study in elementary school curricula and this book would be a valuable resource for offering students a global perspective of houses. The homes shown represent the many possible ways of creating dwellings that reflect different ways of living and traditional methods of construction and decoration. The author explains why each house was constructed in the way it was in a manner that accurately reflects culture, geography, and uses of homes that will be engaging to children. Classroom and visual arts teachers will also find the detail and craftsmanship of the illustrations to be an inspiring model for introducing children to the art of cut-paper collage and helping students develop spatial views of the world. The composition of the illustrations creates a sense of depth with clear delineations of foreground, middle ground, and background that can be readily recognized by young artists. Children and adults alike will enjoy imagining what it would be like if they lived in the houses portrayed in this book.
Author: Giles Laroche
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
Reviewer: Steven Shaw, Educator, Milwaukee, Wisconsin