Friday 21 September 2018

ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st September 2018: "The House of Lost and Found" by Martin Widmark and Emilia Dziubak (Floris Books)

This week's Picture Book of the Week touches on an amazing array of different subjects in a heartwarming story for all ages...
"The House of Lost and Found" by Martin Widmark and Emilia Dziubak first caught my eye when I was looking through new preview stuff on NetGalley. I instantly fell completely in love with the book's art, the amazing story and wanted to start talking about it on Twitter more or less straight away.

Thankfully Floris noticed my tweets and very kindly sent a physical copy through, and it really is one of the most beautiful books we've seen this year.

It tells the story of an old man named Niles who lives alone in his tumbledown and rather ramshackle house (which, to me, looks like the sort of place I'd LOVE to live in).

Niles' wife died many years ago but still he holds her memory close to his heart. His children are grown up and have left home, and are busy with their own lives and their own children. So Niles lives a solitary existence, apart from his cat Johan Sebastian (who eventually gets a bit fed up with Niles' rather grumpy solitary ways and leaves home himself).

Niles merely shrugs but as he gets older and settles into a rather mundane and lonely lifestyle, barely venturing out of the house at all, something happens to change Niles' life entirely.

One night as he's settling down to sleep he hears the doorbell.

Who would be disturbing an old man at that time of night? Niles rather irritatedly answers the door to find a young boy standing on his doorstep. The boy has just moved in next door, and as the family are disappearing on holiday the boy asks Niles to look after his pot plant.

Before Niles can raise so much as a "Cheeky young whippersnapper" the boy has gone, leaving Niles with a pot of earth.

The curmudgeonly old man decides to humour the boy, watering the plant until a microscopic shoot breaks the surface of the soil.

As the old man begins to tend to the plant something changes. Not only is the plant growing but Niles' attitude is changing. He begins to throw back the curtains, letting some air into the house. He cleans his windows, and then begins to spring clean. And for the first time in forever he settles down with one of the books in his amazing library.

But what of the plant and the boy? Well we'll leave a few surprises for you to discover. As we said, this story has so many layers - at first quite reminiscent of the story in Pixar's amazing film "Up" but beyond that it's a parable about getting old, suffering from loneliness and letting your previous life ebb away from you - but dovetailing with the hope and youthful energy that comes from childhood, and how sometimes just a simple gesture can make someone's day and perhaps even turn their life around.

As you can see from the cover, the book's artwork is truly stunning and full of atmosphere just begging you to delve inside. The story is beautifully told too - and hooray for Floris taking on a picture book text that doesn't wrap things up in under 500 words. There's a luxuriant feel to the story as it's given room (and a word count) to properly breathe in. Yes, a huge hooray for that.

It's beautiful stuff and if you're not feeling a bit emotional by the end you're obviously made of granite.

C's best bit: Shouldn't really spoil things too much but Johan Sebastian does rather steal the show at times...

Daddy's favourite bit: Just so many gorgeous little layers to this story as it dips into the subject of growing old, of loneliness, innocence, childhood and friendships. An utterly wonderful book.

"The House of Lost and Found" by Martin Widmark and Emilia Dziubak is out now, published by Floris Books (kindly supplied for review).