The House Takes a Vacation, written by Jacqueline Davies and illustrated by Lee White, is hilarious from cover to cover. The text would be funny all by itself, and then the illustrations take things to another level. The story starts when the Peterson family heads off on vacation. The house, consisting of distinct personalities in the front door, sunporch, bedroom windows, roof, chimney, and basement, decides that it deserves a vacation, too. After some quarreling over the whole thing, they decide to head to the beach. So the house picks itself up off of it's foundation, and heads off on a variety of skinny little legs, looking for adventure.
I think that The House Take a Vacation would be perfect for slightly older kids, first to third graders, rather than for younger kids. There's a lot of text, and some relatively subtle puns. I can imagine kids giggling away at the silliness of the puns and other wordplay, and at the behavior of the different parts of the house. I first knew that I was in for something fun on the first page of text, with this passage:
"Dudes," said the roof, "there's no way I'm spending my vacation with the stuccoed-up houses in this neighborhood."
Hah! Stuccoed-up houses. And a roof that says "Dudes". I love it. Then there's the sibling rivalry of the two bedroom windows, and the way that the front door always chimes in with "I'll lead the way." Or this:
"You're such a stick-in-the-mud," said the roof, but the basement refused to rise to the occasion.
It gets better (or worse, depending on your tolerance for puns). After a long trip to the beach, the roof feels like he has shingles, and the chimney might have the flue. And then the windows creak "Oh! The pane! The pane!" Is this great stuff, or what?
The illustrations are gorgeous, rendered in oil and colored pencil on illustration board. Every page is awash with color, though most of the backgrounds are somewhat muted in tone compared to the expressive house. Although the parts of the house are primarily conveyed through eyes, eyebrows, and mouth, White manages to make each distinctive. The front door looks eager. The sunporch looks like a flamboyant opera star. The basement looks faintly villainous. It's amazing what a talented illustrator can do with eyebrows.
This is a rare picture book that I got to the end of, and wanted to immediately go back and read again. I think that this would make a wonderful read-aloud title for early elementary school kids (as does Franki). It's also a perfect bedtime book for a family just back from vacation. Highly recommended for kids of all ages.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.