Monthly Archives: August 2012

The House Baba Built

The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China

My new favorite sub-genre could be called the Illustrated-childhood-memoir-by-a-distinguished-children’s-illustrator-immigrant.  I’ve  already eaten up books by Peter Sis, Uri Shulevitz and Allen Say.  The latest gem is The House Baba Built:  An Artist’s Childhood in China by Ed Young.    This 2011 memoir is a big, beautiful multi-media recreation of the world Young grew up in Shanghai.  He was born in 1931 during years of crisis:  the Great Depression, invasion, World War II.

What a beautiful book.  The cover is like the wrought iron gate of the beautiful house Young’s father built for his family.  His father builds this house on a wealthy landowner’s property on the condition that his family will get to live there for twenty years.  Young takes us back to the sights and sounds of his childhood  and his wonderful home vividly, with paintings, drawings, and photographs, introducing us to his siblings and the world he knew.  It’s a spectacular work filled with foldout pages.  As the war goes on, his family takes other people in, including a German refugee family with a little girl, Jean, who’s sort of like a new sister.

What a gift Ed Young has given to the world with The House Baba Built.  It will be enjoyed by young and old.  Middle grade kids interested in history or art should be an enthusiastic audience.  Young, who turned 80 in 2012,  has insured that a wondrous childhood in old Shanghai will live on.



Filed under Age: All, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Picture Books

Start the school year off right with Jake!

We got a copy of Jake Starts School  (Fiewel and Friends, 2008) at just the right time- when my daughter was starting kindergarten. Michael Wright has written and illustrated a fun story and a perfect “issue” book for kids dealing with the start of school .

This is a fabulous story about that first day of school we all experience.  It’s intense for all of us, but little Jake is terrified and refuses to let go of his parents ALL DAY LONG.  You have a sense your first day of school that anything could happen and things could go really bad.  So you’re not surprised when you read

Just then the door swung open and
A red-haired lady said..
Hi, I’m your teacher Mrs. Moore.
Jake screamed and then he fled.

From then on Jake is stuck to his parents like they’re one organism.  It’s funny and Jake has a lot at stake.  The rhyming text flows out smoothly and tells a great story.  Pictures like the one of Jake and his mom and dad weighing down one side of a teeter totter while the little girl on the other side is stuck high on her perch delight the readers.  Our family has read this countless times over the last four years and we’ve enjoyed it every time!

I’ve just heard the good news that there are more Jake books:  Jake Goes Peanuts and Jake Stays Awake .  I’ll have to hunt them down.


Filed under Age: Early Elementary, Age: Preschool, Fiction, Picture Books, Reviews