Book Review: Building Our House By Jonathan Bean

Seems like forever since I have done a book review, but this one has maintained a steady spot at the top of my favorites pile since I began this Cybils craziness. I readily admit, that I didn’t give it much thought when I heard and saw it coming out earlier this year, and now I’m making up for lost time. This is a sweet book about a little girl’s family working together to build their dream home and all the time and effort and love that makes up those walls. Here is Building Our House by Jonathan Bean, 2013.

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This is my first official introduction to Jonathan Bean’s work and I am greatly endeared to his style. I love the seeming simplicity of his characters, all the many details and fantastic compositions he layers, and most especially his earthy, yet vibrant color palette in watercolors on marvelous uncoated paper. If I just heard about this storyline, I think I would have questioned its viability. It’s not a flashy concept and perhaps that is why his handling of it has nestled its way into my heart and bookshelf. Bean composed this story from family experience and filled it with just enough detail, time span, and clever illustration to keep the interest high.

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The story is very straightforward with the little girl narrating in first person. The page layouts have lovely shifts between large spreads and multiple scenes set in quarters to give the span of time and each part of the project. Visually, I’m drawn to how the story allows the reader to either read it quickly, enjoying the pace and characters and storyline seamlessly; or it can be pored over, catching tiny details, looking for the little brother or cat, learning from the machines and tools used for each part, and even spying the mother growing a baby belly.

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This is a beautiful documentation of a family and community doing a huge task that seems like it would almost slip into the past without comment. The end of the book includes a nice author’s note about the real event he drew from as well as some family photos of their own process. It’s an excellent read for the machine obsessed little ones and those who just want to celebrate family doing life together.

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One thought on “Book Review: Building Our House By Jonathan Bean

  1. Caryn, I JUST read this book the other night, and your words mirror (much more eloquently and in-depth) mine as far as your feelings and assessment of the book as a whole. I love the wholesomeness of it, from its subject matter, to the simplicity of the storytelling to the detailed-enough-but-still-VERY-readable illustrations.

    Great book for home or library. LOVED it 😀


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