Four months ago, to my surprise, a package was laid on my doorstep by my wonderful mailman. Inside were two books a friend knew I would love. The one, A Hen for Izzy Pippik by Aubrey Davis with illustrations by Marie Lafrance was read and reviewed the very next day. To say the other was not read immediately would not be true. It was read then and many times since its arrival.
A Little Pig had made a den for herself in the woods. Next door, another Little Pig had made himself a hut.
When exploring in the forest one morning the two find a special feather and a zigzaggedty stick but when they each return home, other surprises await them. Bear has decided to take up residence in Little Pig's den and Moose is living in Little Pig's hut. The Little Pigs really like Bear and Moose but not what happens to their homes. With a whoosh and loud snapping their dwellings lay in ruins.
Sitting on a nearby park bench the four ponder this dilemma. None of them likes the idea of being without a roof over their heads. Quite suddenly Moose pops up with a marvelous idea; they could construct a house large enough for all of them. Moose knows they need the very best to help them build a real home, one with walls, a roof, windows and doors. A phone call later the Beaver Builders are on the job.
With payment negotiated, peanut butter sandwiches, work begins. Accomplishments are assessed at mealtimes over the next few days. Builder Beavers, Moose, Bear and the Little Pigs each contribute according to their strengths. A trip to the junkyard, grocery store and to the lodge at the lake signal an end and a new beginning; a house, a home and four friends dwelling therein.
There is something calm and understated about the way Inga Moore has this narrative unfold; almost as if readers are gathered together listening to a storyteller. There is an air of collective cooperation in all things said and done. And yes, humor, makes an appearance at the right moment each and every time. Here is a sample passage.
...and by dinnertime the roof
was on. (The lunch and dinner
times were on different
days, of course. Beavers are
fast, but not that fast.)
What draws the reader into the story though are her illustrations rendered in pencil, pastel and wash using an earth tone palette. The matching jacket and cover allude to a time in the future, of pastoral peace and pleasantries among friends. Each of the endpapers, opening and closing, extend the story. In the beginning we readers wonder why a bear and two pigs crossing a meadow are bringing stacks of sandwiches on plates to a group of happy beavers. At the end you can almost hear a collective sigh at the sight of a moon rising over the railed walkway leading to the beaver's lodge on the pond; the surrounding trees reflected in the still waters.
Astonishing details are prevalent is all the realistic delicate pictures. Moore alters between a double page spread, one crossing the gutter to create a panel for the text, to a single page framed in white or extending to the edges or insets framed by text. Her close-up of Moose making the phone call on an old style phone, which just happens to be hanging from a tree trunk, is delightful. The beavers clad in hard hats arriving in pickup trucks with slatted wooden sides will bring on the giggles. There is so much to enjoy in each and every illustration.
I will be singing praises for A House in the Woods by Inga Moore loud and strong as many times as I can. It would work well with Building Our House by Jonathan Bean or If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen. I invite you to read Bringing Words to Life and Inga Moore, illustrator of the Wind in the Willows to further appreciate the process behind her work.
And to my happy-go-lucky friend, I send thanks for bringing this wonderful book into my reading life.