Mysteries of strange house noises are demystified in a picture book that brings the science while having its imaginative cake, too.
If the world is a huge, scary place for small children, the houses they live in can be just as frightening, especially at night, when creaks and knocks can easily be confused for monsters and haunted trees by anyone who's not a home inspector. Ritchie explores each "thump," "gurgle" and "scraaaatch..." in detail. Scratching might be birds building a nest in a chimney, while a big crunching sound could be the structure settling on its foundation, or “your home getting comfortable," he writes, after revealing that a new house can shift as much as 2 inches over time. The double-page spreads of wobbly-lined illustrations embrace what's scary with fancifully disturbing images of gigantic bees, anthropomorphic hammers, and hidden shower ghouls before each explanation. A few of the reveals may fall into the category of more information than is probably necessary (do young readers need to know what a "ballast" inside a fluorescent light box does?), but even some home-owning adults will pick up bits of new knowledge.
If nothing else, the spot-on matching of sounds to reasonable explanation may reassure kids that the disturbing noises a house can make aren't just being imagined—or maybe that it’s monsters outside that are making a ruckus. (Informational picture book. 4-8)