Friday, 10 July 2015

"If I Built a House" by Chris Van Dusen (Chronicle)

If I Built a House

Written and Illustrated by
Chris Van Dusen

Published by Chronicle Books

Back in 2013, we were tipped off by the wonderful Damyanti Patel about a book that would be 'our cup of tea'. Damy is absolutely right of course, we really loved "If I built a Car", making it a Book of the Week.

Chris Van Dusen is an illustrative genius, his work is wonderful and imaginative and we described his book worlds as being "the sort of worlds you wish you could crawl into".

For a long time I've had my eye on various places for a cheap copy of the follow-up "If I Built a House" - and finally we managed to snag a copy. We already knew what to expect as we fell completely in love with Chris's retro-futuristic style and his inventive child hero Jack. Jack's imagination repurposed Dad's reliable old station wagon into the world's most amazing car in "If I Built a Car". This time he's got his eyes firmly fixed on the family abode.

In "If I Built a House" Jack's "House of the Future" design is the most incredible place to live. Page after page we found ourselves oohing and ahhing at Jack's household improvements, and joined in with Jack's mum and dog, staring in wonderment at such fabulous ideas.

A ballpit in the living room, with trampolines set into the floor so you can bounce across the room and dive straight in? Yes, we would definitely want that.

The kitchen improves on Jack's ideas for a snack bar in Dad's car. In Jack's modern domestic dreamscape, the kitchen prepares the most mouthwatering food (and if there's one thing Chris Van Dusen should be credited on, it's his ability to draw and paint grub that makes us almost drown in our own drool! YUM!!!!) The kitchen also does all the washing up and putting away too, definitely something else we'd add to the list if we somehow won the lottery!

It doesn't stop there though. Jack's art room is ace - a huge wall-sized roll of paper, good for 1,000,000 drawings, hangs from the side with all the copics, pens, pencils and colours you could possibly want.

Our two favourite rooms were definitely Jack's bedroom high up in the clouds, perfect for star spotting and complete with a long spiral slide right down to the ground. "Can we have this, please Daddy? PLEASE!" pleaded Charlotte (though I have often jokingly said that we could do the "Ghostbusters" thing of having a fireman's pole from the top of our three storey house down to the bottom purely because running downstairs in your undercrackers to answer the door to the postie on a saturday morning is often quite difficult!)

Back to Jack's house and the racetrack room was our next port of call. A fabulous racetrack, just like the Hot Wheels track my sister and I used to lightsaber each other practically to death with as kids. How awesome would it be to have an indoor kart track, and invite all your friends round for races!

The book is stunning - but Charlotte picked up on something that had irritated her about the first book, and came up a few times in this book too. Chris over-uses the line "Now that's something new!" and it does jar a bit, though not enough to stop this being a fantastic and imaginative book of the week that renders a child's wonderful imagination in such a peerless and glorious way.

If...just if...we ever make a ton of cash, I'm going to buy a modest stretch of land, hire a team of architects and builders par excellence and build that house!!

Charlotte's best bit: It was a tough choice between the fantastic slide down from Jack's bedroom, or the fabulous racetrack room!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Glorious retro designs and art, though some repetition was a bit jarring (even so it's still a fabulous rhyming book full of wonder and imagination!)

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"If I Built a Car" by Chris Van Dusen (Chronicle Books)