Review: Building Our House

Building Our House Cover PageBuilding Our House

Written and Illustrated by: Jonathan Bean

Farrar Straus Giroux Books, 2013, Hardcover Edition

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Creativity/Family

How We Discovered This Book: This book was in the new books bin at our library, and it looked like good choice for my kids who are very much interested in how things are made.


A girl and her family pack up their belongings and move from town out into an empty field. They live in a trailer for 1-1/2 years as they build their own home from scratch. Every member of the family has a part to play in the hard work and love it takes to build a home.

What I Liked:

Given the increased focus on non-fiction books in our schools, I’m very interested in books that take a non-fiction topic and put a twist on it. This is a fiction book, but is factually based on real events and a real building process. Rather than make it a dry book about construction, the author intertwines the family story with all of the work they did to build their own home. Kids will learn, without really being aware they are learning.

What Did My Kids Think?

Both of my kids enjoyed this book, and I think they now have a slightly better appreciation for what it has taken for us to renovate our own house. They had lots of questions that extended the discussion into other books and videos. The whimsical illustrations pair nicely with the story. The author includes some of his parents’  photographs from their house building at the end, which is an extra treat.


PBS has a fun activity where kids can measure and build a house for some of their favorite storybook characters.

Scholastic has an activity focused on the business process from plans to completion.

Improvise, and see what other kinds of houses you can build: birdhouses, gingerbread houses, or even a house for your guinea pig.

Can I Give Myself a Gift This Christmas?

I always thought it was weird when someone would tell me that they bought their own Christmas gift. “It’s easier that way,” they’d say. “That way, I get what I want.”

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that defeat the point? Can’t you buy yourself a present any day of the year? Perhaps it makes a person feel better to have an excuse to purchase that big screen TV they’ve been eyeing, or those designer shoes.

Bryant Park Christmas TreeI was taught as a child that Christmas is about showing those you love how much you care about them. Not by how big or expensive the presents were, but by how much thought you put into them. And by the immense value of just being together, enjoying in the traditions we have built.

This year, I am making every effort to follow those guidelines. I eagerly anticipate having my whole family together to enjoy our Christmas rituals, including the magic of Santa’s visit, stockings overflowing, and Dad’s scrumptious Christmas morning french toast.

My son and I have completed several service projects for needy children. I am trying to make the gifts I give as meaningful as possible. So what is there left to do for a special Christmas?

Give myself a gift.

Wait a minute, you say. Didn’t you just say not to give yourself gifts? I’m not talking about  a new perfume or a spa day. I’m talking about a gift that I really need. A much more personal one.

I’m going to give myself the gift of persistence.

I’ve worked really hard this year- on my writing, on my home, on raising two balanced children, and on some personal issues. And as December ticks by, I look back and wish I had gotten further. Wrote more, hugged my children more, looked out for myself more. But alas, I can’t change any of those things. They are done.

What I can do is give myself some help- a little boost if you will. A little push to keep going- keep working on those novels, keep trying to be patient with the unplanned challenges of life.

After all, before you know it, it will be a new year. A time to plan for new goals and dreams.

What gift would you give yourself this holiday season?