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Day 152 – The Little House

To close out the month of May, we read a 1943 Caldecott medal book by Virginia Lee Burton called “The Little House.” Ms. Burton’s “Mike Mulligan” was one of our very favorite books to read and listen to with our oldest when she was little (if it is possible to wear out an audio book, I think we found a way). As a result of that experience, and the Caldecott medal on the cover, we had high hopes for “The Little House”, and it was just as good as we expected. It is a story full of heart and beautiful illustrations that made it clear to us why this book is considered an all-time classic.

little houseThe Little House was built long ago, way out in the country. She is a pretty house, strong and solid. She is so solid, in fact, that the man who built her predicts she will live to see his great-great-grandchildren’s great-great-grandchildren living in her. Over the years, The Little House sits on the top of the hill in bucolic bliss – watching seasons pass, crops being sown and harvested, and horses and buggies passing by. At night, she watches the stars and wonders curiously about the lights of the city glowing in the distance. Slowly, those lights come closer and closer, and horseless carriages traverse the widening roads. Soon the buildings around her grow higher and higher, elevated trains block her view, and subway cars rumble underneath her. Surrounded by skyscrapers, she is unable to see the moon at night and only sees the sun at noon every day. She is sad and lonely, and with her chipped paint and boarded windows, no one can tell that underneath she is still the same strong house.

Then, one fine spring day, the great-great-granddaughter of the man who built The Little House walks by and comments “That house looks just like the little house my grandmother lived in when she was a little girl.” When she realizes that it is indeed the same house, she and her husband have it moved far out into the country. A cellar is dug on a hill and The Little House is refurbished, lived-in, and cared for once again. “Never again would she be curious about the city…It was Spring…and all was quiet and peaceful in the country.”

What a lovely book. The colorful, detailed illustrations draw readers in and the story of The Little House eventually making her way back to the peace and quiet of the country is sweet and comforting. I have read reviews that label this book as a commentary on urban sprawl, and I suppose that’s true. I prefer, however, to think of the corollary: the joyful idea of building a little house on a hill somewhere you can breathe and just be.