This house, once

This house, once book cover

This book takes the concrete idea of looking at what materials go into the making of a house and turns the experience into something dreamy and magical. This book is meant to read aloud to children.

Picture book, fiction
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 4.1
4 out of 5 stars


The story begins with a simple image of a door on a white background. The poetic style of the text reads “This door was once a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.” When the reader turns the page a beautiful watercolor, wordless spread shows the door in place on a large oak tree that reaches through the clouds into the sky.

This alternate style of images, juxtaposing different parts of a house and their location of origin in nature continues for most of the story. Once a slate roof is added to the home and the structure is complete, we see how the different parts have come together to form a home that provides refuge and warmth to the people and animals inside.

At the end of the book in a Note to Readers, Deborah Freedman lets us know that the home in the story is made of the same materials as her real home, and then she asks, “Where do you live? What was your home, once?”

This book is meant to appeal to younger children, but the independent reading level is around 4th grade. For young children, this book will be best if read aloud to them, and then together, an adult and child can ponder how and with what materials their place of residence was made.

Freeman’s illustrations are incredibly beautiful, bringing a dreamy and magical quality that matches the poetic style of the text. This is an quiet story with a cozy feel.


This house, once
by Deborah Freedman
Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4814-4284-8

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