This allegory about friendship that bridges difference and perceived inequality is quietly yet effectively told in an understated tone.
Two similar-looking houses are friends. Their differences are compellingly shown rather than told: “On the outside / they looked much the same” is followed by two spreads. The first shows a comfortable interior with a sofa, end table, and art on the walls along with the words “But on the inside— ”; the second reveals a bare room and the sentence’s conclusion: “—the two houses were quite different.” Inanimate objects may seem to be unusual choices as characters, but this approach depersonalizes the implied relative difference in wealth. Ink illustrations, done in a limited palette of brown, salmon, and turquoise on a mustard background, have a naïve look that emulates woodblock prints. They suitably interpret the quiet tone of the text, which avoids becoming celebratory about overcoming difference and imbalance. Neither of these two houses is better than the other; they are simply friends, each with something to offer the other. Refreshingly, the full house doesn’t minister to the empty one, and the empty one doesn’t owe the full one any thanks.
This may not be the most obvious first choice for a storytime or for a young reader to pick up; rather, it is a deceptively powerful, timely message in the guise of a quiet, old-fashioned package. (Picture book. 4-7)