The Kirkus review for the book I want to tell you about, A House in the Woods, calls it a modest and “nicely quirky” picture book. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Every now and then children need a dose of the modest and nicely quirky, don’t you think?
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I know just enough about Inga Moore’s illustrations to know that I like her style. Her work has been described as possessing “shades of Maurice Sendak with the knowledgeable line of an Edward Ardizzone or E. H. Shepard.” Her illustrations for several classic children’s novels have been released here in the States, though she lives in England and an online search will show you that she’s illustrated a whole host of children’s books that haven’t made it over the pond.
Fortunately, Candlewick picked up her latest book, which she also wrote, for publication here. And it’s funny. And sweet without being saccharine. And the perfect cozy, lap-time read with your favorite child.
Rendered in lush earthy pencil, pastel, and wash illustrations, Moore tells the story of two Little Pigs living in the woods, who set out on a walk one morning. “One Little Pig found a feather, and the other found an interesting stick.” I love how true that is to the discoveries of young children, which this link, widely circulating right now, already knows.
However, when they return to their den and hut, they find that Bear has moved into one and Moose into another. Things are a bit crowded, and their sweet digs are wrecked.
But Moore doesn’t go for insurmountable tension or serious arguing. The creatures simply find themselves in a pickle. Yes, that’s it. “This was a pickle,” she writes. “It really was.”
Moose’s idea is to build a home in which they can all live. Knowing that they can’t possibly build a “big house with real windows and doors, a roof, stairs, and chimney stacks” all alone, they head over to the telephone—there’s an old-skool one hanging off a nearby tree, and I LOVE THIS—to call the Beavers. The Beavers want to be paid in peanut butter sandwiches. Absolutely no one objects.
Everyone works together to build this terrifically cozy, comfy home by the lake in the woods, which the reader sees toward the end. “It had been a busy time for the Little Pigs and Moose and Bear. They had worked hard. Had it been worth it? What do you think? Just look! What a beautiful new house they have.” Moore’s direct address to the reader makes this for a particularly engaging and interactive read. She even leaves ample space at the end for showing us how much the characters enjoy the home—dining together, cleaning together, telling stories around the fire and sleeping in their warm beds upstairs.
As you can see, Moore brings us no hyperdramatic turbulence of any sort here, hence the “modest” from the reviewer. But the illustrations are also modest, quiet in their rendering of home life, with subtle details all over to bring this world to vivid life for the reader. This is a slightly oversized book, too, with many border-less spreads that teem with life and take up every inch of space. Moore’s earthy palette is soothing and inviting.
Stop by Moore’s house in the woods. It’s a treat from start to finish.
Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.