Does every living being plan? We know plants and animals plan for changes in the weather and seasons, in fact they are often a sign of what we can expect in both. They do so to survive. We humans make daily plans. We plan for special events, many of them months and years in the future. We devise plans to reach our short-term and long-term goals in our academic, career, and personal lives. It is also a given that at any moment, sometimes seconds in length, our plans are unexpectedly and significantly altered. We learn that often the best plan is to have no plan.
Six years ago we met an enchanting character in Julia's House for Lost Creatures. Julia is an energetic young woman who puts her heart's desires into action, but often the results are unpredictable. She returns in a companion title, Julia's House Moves On (First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, September 29, 2020) written and illustrated by Ben Hatke. Julia's house sits on the back of an enormous turtle and Julia pulls up her mailbox in anticipation of what is to come.
Julia's House was for lost
creatures of every kind.
But the house was getting
restless. It was time to move
on. Everyone could feel it.
The creatures residing in Julia's House were no longer their normal selves, acting entirely out of character. Julia was certain she had the perfect plan in place for the upcoming relocation. She was packing like a pro. She had a new setting in mind, but the house had other intentions. It began to move.
Julia was not ready. Her plan was not in place any longer. The turtle had its own plan. It was on the move. Before Julia, and her resident creatures knew what was happening the House was in ruins, drifting on the sea sans turtle. Julia reassured everyone that she had a plan.
Everyone jumping in the water and pushing the House did not go well. Dangerous conditions had everyone finding refuge in the now sinking House. Julia still thought she had a plan. She rummaged through her workshop and boxes, finding what she knew was a solution. It was a disaster.
Julia now, diminished in her vigor, believed she could plan her way out of this situation, but the creatures left before she could present her ideas. Julia is now alone, and her plans float away on the wind. Suddenly, something, more than one something, she never envisioned in her wildest dreams happened. It was not a part of any of her plans, but many times this is life's way of telling you to let go and embrace whatever it sends you.
In a spirited, conversational blend of text and dialogue, Ben Hatke presents a life lesson within a captivating story. His spare, but specific, choice of words builds one incident upon another leading us to a spectacular, luminous conclusion. These sentences also leave room for further enhancement by the images. Here is a passage.
The creatures scrambled
back on board. The house
was sinking faster.
The warmth in the shades of orange and yellow on the front, right, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, hint at either a sunrise or a sunset, presenting that each is the chance for a new beginning. We can see the House in the background is already limbering up for its move. The creature in Julia's box, a ghillie, is a recent arrival, but a remarkable character to this story.
To the left, on the back, is an enlarged interior image of Julia determinedly looking through boxes in her workshop for a single item she believes will save the House. The pale canvas highlights the vibrant colors of the objects in the boxes. Careful readers will see the ghillie there with Julia.
The opening and closing endpapers begin and conclude the story including the initial title page and the final sentence. On the first, on the left, an overturned pot, on its side, has dirt spilling out. The ghillie trailing earth, leaves and wearing a single flower walks across the bottom of the initial title page on the right. On the second, on the left, Julia's House is on its way to a new adventure, small in the distance and surrounded by gorgeous clouds in hues of yellow, orange, and complementary tones of purple and blue. On the right, in a small square image, Julia, spyglass to her eye and wearing a captain's hat, is next to a railing. The Patched Up Kitty is next to her, paws resting on the rail. Engraved in the railing are the words:
The verso and formal title page is a large, double-page picture of Julia's House on the edge of the sea and the surrounding community. The ghillie is walking down a path toward Julia's House. If you look closely, you will see the reason the House moves unannounced. Ben Hatke uses every space to tell his story from the beginning to the end.
The illustrations' sizes alter to accentuate the pacing and narrative. There may be wordless panels with a small image on a single page or a single page picture. At times, a panel is inserted into a single-page picture for emphasis. Panels are layered on a large image in the center of two pages. Double-page picture with and without words are highly dramatic and at times emotional. The perspectives offered in each image are perfection, panoramic or close-up as needed.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page. It is a close-up of Julia holding the ghillie for the first time. It is cupped in her hand. She smiles with affection at the creature. It looks at her, calmly resting in her hand, with an open look. This is the essence of Julia, and of the creatures who live with her. Their respect and affection are mutual.
This book, Julia's House Moves On written and illustrated by Ben Hatke, like the best kind of story will resonate differently with each reader depending on their personal life experiences. One thing is certain, though, this is a book to cherish for its words and wonderfully animated visuals. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.
To discover more about Ben Hatke and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name. Ben Hatke has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Ben Hatke is featured at author Maria Marshall's site, and at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. At Macmillan Publishers enjoy some interior illustrations and an activity kit you can download. I think you'll like these videos.