a list of…five wildly different stories about home and moving

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School, written and illustrated by David Mackintosh

Freckle-faced Marshall Armstrong, with his round, round spectacles and straw barbershop-quartet style hat to keep out the sun, is the completely new and oh-so-curiously-different boy in school.

He is just so weird.  Instead of watching television, he reads the newspaper.  Instead of playing at recess, his doctor has ordered him to rest and read a book.   Truly, he doesn’t fit in one bit.  And now he’s gone and invited the whole class to his birthday party!  What a terrible time that will be!

But…it isn’t a terrible time after all!  Marshall Armstrong’s house is set up for all kinds of unusual indoor fun.  Monkey bars and an obstacle course, train sets and a homemade piano, telescopes and a fireman’s pole, and yummy organic birthday cake with fresh squeezed lemonade.  In fact, Marshall Armstrong is one cool kid!

Moving into a new neighborhood and school is one of those universally intimidating experiences.  This brilliant book captures the suspicions of the insiders, followed by their stupendous delight in discovering a cracking good friend in an unexpected person, making it a happy, hopeful account from either vantage point.

Illustrated by award-winning graphic designer David Mackintosh, the mixed media layouts are extremely appealing — crisp, colorful, exuberant, taking us by the hand and tugging us through the evolution from stranger to friend.

Moving Molly, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes

Molly, a quintessential British preschooler, lives in town with her family.  It’s a very adequate house, but it lacks a garden (Brit-speak for yard), so when Mom and Dad find a new house with a  long-if-mussy garden, everyone is full of happy plans.  After a lot of packing up, and some rueful goodbyes to old familiar spaces, the family journeys to the new house and proceeds to settle in.

Mom and Dad, and Molly’s school-age siblings, are all quite busy, working in the house and yard, starting new schools, riding bikes.  Molly feels a bit bewildered with the quiet of the countryside and no particular job to speak of, until she discovers a hole in the board fence and slips through into the next-door garden, currently unoccupied.

Molly relishes hours and hours of imaginative play next door in the weeds and brambles, where stray cats gather and an abandoned greenhouse holds plants to tend.  When a family moves in, however, will it mean the end of Molly’s make-believe games?

Shirley Hughes has written (of course) my favorite book about moving and new beginnings.   All the perfect Hughes elements are here — homely friendliness, perceptive insight to a child’s mind, pleasant storyline, and warm, engaging watercolors.  A very well-loved title in the Swanson household.

I Know Here, by Laurel Croza, pictures by Matt James

Knowledge of a place is such a comfort.  For this young girl, the place she knows is northeastern Saskatchewan, with its pine forest, and beaver ponds, hills and creeks, the tiny line-up of trailers where she lives, and the familiar faces of truck drivers and teachers, and a handful of classmates.

But now she is moving to Toronto.  A world away.  A chasm apart.  So far from the small store where they get groceries, from the damp smell of fox, from the five-seater airplane.  Will the people in Toronto have any way to understand this place she loves?

Her wise teacher suggests she draw a picture of something she wants to remember, to take along when she leaves.  And that is just what she does.

This is a simple, poignant story that speaks in a loving way about the grip a place can hold on our hearts and the role of each sight and sound, smell and face.  The honest difficulty of leaving the familiar is acknowledged, yet the moving forward is not overwhelming.  Matt James’ bold acrylics relieve the story of sentimentality, bringing instead a vivid, strong view of her boreal, rustic,  life.

If You Lived Here:  Houses of the World, written and illustrated by Giles Laroche

Houses and homes around the world are interesting, inventive, culture-specific.

There are homes built of logs, then chinked with mud and moss.  Homes whose roofs receive blankets of snow, providing extra insulation in winter.  Adobe, tufa, and packed earth houses.  Homes floating on water, or perched on stilts, or carried about from place to place.  Houses built for protection from invading armies, or from incoming tides.  Sleek, modern homes; boldly painted homes; whitewashed houses climbing steep hills.

This beautiful book describes fifteen unique houses, located around the world.  In gorgeous,  cut-paper collages, Laroche gives us rich, detailed, colorful scenes including the house, its setting, and the people who live in it.  He tells us a bit about the house in just a few sentences which a kindergartener could easily enjoy.  In addition, he provides further information about the house, the materials used, the location, the dates this type of house was built, and other fascinating facts about everything from green architecture to the founding of the Airstream company, suitable for older elementary students up through adults.

It’s a great way to curl up together and open your minds to the big, creative, interesting world out there!  A map, showing the location of all these houses, is included.

Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent, written and illustrated by Lauren Child

Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent is the young genius son of the fabulously wealthy Mr & Mrs. Bobton-Trent.  They call him “H” for short.

The Bobton-Trents are known for posh parties, sensational shopping sprees, and a luxurious London house.  H has distinguished himself by telphone prowess at age one, reading ability at age two, and the swell times he has with his best friend, Stanton Harcourt III playing table tennis.

All of this comes to a startlingly abrupt halt, however, when H discovers that the Bobton-Trents are much better at spending money than making it or managing it.  In short, his parents’ fortune has gone the way of the dodo bird.  Oblivious as they are, it’s up to H to figure out a solution.

After several unsuccessful attempts, H realizes there is nothing for it but to downsize in an extraordinary way.  With trepidation, he moves his parents into apartment 17B Plankton Heights.  How will they face this sudden change of fortune, address, way of life?  To H’s delight, he finds that his dingy parents are much happier than ever.

Lauren Child’s zany storyline, characters, and mixed media collages are, as always, brilliant.  Humorous, exaggerated, delightful, colorful fun.  Grab a cup of cocoa and giggle over this book together with a child.

Here are Amazon links for these five on-the-move titles:

Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School

Moving Molly

I Know Here

If You Lived Here: Houses of the World

Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent