A House That Once Was by J. Fogliano

  • Lisa Olson


Fogliano, Julie.  A House That Once Was. Illustrated by Lane Smith, Roaring Brook Press, 2018. 

This is a picture book that remarks upon the curiosity and imagination of childhood exploration. The setting is an abandoned house in a forest that is found by two adventuring children. Although there is no dialogue between the characters, the narrator guides the reader through the possibilities of a house that was once a home. Who once lived in this lost and lonely house?

The writing is done in free verse and could easily be read as a poem independent of the images. However, the illustrations extend the meaning of the text and give further imaginative options of the people who may have lived in the house. The stealthy reader will find many clues into the lives of the past homeowners. 

Lane Smith’s illustrations have been done in two different media as a way to differentiate between current day and imagined past moments in time. The current day images are created with India ink drawings on colourful blotted backgrounds giving the scenes a washed, muted feeling. In contrast, the artwork in the imagined scenes are done in a mixed media with oil painting and paper collage elements.

The reader may experience a mixture of feelings while experiencing this book. One may feel despondent for the old house lost in the forest with a story to tell, a house that has been abandoned and forgotten. However, the reader may become encouraged to grow their own imagination and bloom a narration of what could have been. This book would be a lovely addition to any home, school, or public library and would be a joy to share with elementary aged children in order to encourage conversation and imagination.  

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Lisa Olson

Lisa is a University of Alberta undergraduate student completing her Elementary Education program and a graduate of the Athabasca University Bachelor of Arts program. She loves to dive into a good book and binge read until it is complete. 

How to Cite
OlsonL. (2019). A House That Once Was by J. Fogliano. The Deakin Review of Children’s Literature, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.20361/dr29426
Book Reviews