Julie Fogliano (of When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons fame) and Lane Smith (illustrator of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs and I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups) have combined their talents for A House That Once Was. It is hard to describe this book outside of the basic a boy and girl explore an abandoned house and imagined the people and things that might have lived there. They do this by seeing what the people have left behind and a lot of imagination.
Perhaps what is most interesting about this book is that Lane Smith’s signature illustrating style is not here. When one sees art done by him, you usually realize right away that it is him. These illustrations are radically different from The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs or even Grandpa Green (one of his solo works). They have a classical, old fashion feel to them. They are animated, but have realistic elements. They are soft, bright and have little of the traditional humor we have come to know of Smith. They are not what expected, but what is needed for the story. They are lovely and complement the text. Yes, there is some quirkiness to them, but not overpowering. With that said, I am a fan of Lanes more stereotypical works, these just are a refreshing change that are just as amazing.
The combination of prose poem-story and these illustrations makes more a unique and fun new book to add to anyone’s collection.