With a publication date of January 8, Building Our House by Jonathan Bean (FSG) might have been the very first Caldecott-eligible picture book I read in 2013. I had it in the house when my Mini Mock Caldecott Committee met later that month, and it was all I could do to resist sharing it with them. My fondness for Building Our House has only grown stronger with time, and this morning I had the pleasure of reading it again with my daughter, after she had a chance to discuss it at Caldecott Club (this one is run by her elementary school librarian).
Here's what we think: Part of what makes Building Our House such a satisfying book is the way it's made. As it should be, since the book itself is about building something to last. Everything from the trim size (taller than average) to the creamy, matte paper it's printed on speaks to this point. And the Author's Note includes vintage 1970s photographs of the Bean family at work on building their house, rounding out the reader's experience, too.
Of course, the illustrations themselves are full of satisfying details and subplots, continuity and change. There's also plenty to learn about construction, from setting the corners of the foundation by the North Star to machines and tools and good old-fashioned hard work. Check out Mom on the cover with a circular saw.
One thing we were curious about was the evergreen branch visible at the peak of the house on framing day (and for a few months after, until the cold rains fall). We did a little research: apparently, when the last beam is placed at the top of a building there is a ceremony called topping out--on skyscrapers, even!
I could go on and on (I sort of already have). Building Our House. It's our favorite.
[See Laying the Foundation for a Great Picture Book at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for so.much.MORE. Thank you, Jules and Jonathan!]