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[MARCH 1, 2006]
"Soft House," by Jane Yolen,
illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin, Candlewick Press, 2005, 28 pages, ages
What makes a rainy day, a little brother,
a big sister and a cat special? Maybe it is the fact it is an ordinary, "any
day" occurrence. Maybe it is the game that the big sister has made up: soft
house. Maybe it is because at one time or another almost every child has
built a "house" of blankets or sheets and pillows on a rainy day. Maybe we
would still love to close out a dripping, wet world, snuggling into a cozy,
soft place until the sun shines once again. Maybe it is the memories it
conjures up for me of the hours my own little girl and boy spent building
and enjoying their own snuggly hideaway. Jane Yolen's new book, "Soft
House," gives the reader just that kind of story.
Sharing indoor space with a younger sibling can bring out unwanted
behavior in an older sister. It can also bring out protectiveness and
understanding. Filled with the comfortable action of creating a special
hideaway place, the "soft house" is a sanctuary where both can pretend,
while enjoying the day with little more than imagination, books, toys and a
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Wendy Anderson Halperin's illustrations create cozy feelings with
muted colors, warm light sources that intensify the gloominess of
the weather outside, and fun patterns in clothing and quilts. Pages
built of two-page spreads with mini panels help the reader focus on
details or actions that will delight younger children as well as add
context to the text. The charming house with sloped ceilings and
geraniums in the windows builds a snug refuge from the elements
Ms. Yolen, with over 250 books for children and young adults to
her credit, has the ability to wrap us into a story with minimum
words or fuss. Quiet charm, simple pleasures and childhood's fun
make her books a joy to read for both young and old. "Soft House"
does not shout its message from a barreling locomotive. Instead it
takes us along for a meandering trip down a pleasant country lane.
This book would be an excellent choice for reading to your young
ones when a "quieting down" time is needed during inside play or at
the end of the day before bedtime. You may hear many exclamations of
"We did that!" or "Remember when we built a house…" What a wonderful
way to share or make memories!
To check out this book or others by Jane Yolen, visit the Lincoln
Public Library, 725 Pekin St.
[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian, Lincoln Public