This House, Once

Illustrated by Deborah Freedman
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About The Book

“Tender, comforting, and complex.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Drawn with exquisite precision and quiet dashes of humor.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A lovely, ruminative selection.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
“A blueprint for mindfulness and gratitude for the homes in which we…live.” —The New York Times Book Review


Deborah Freedman’s masterful new picture book is at once an introduction to the pieces of a house, a cozy story to share and explore, and a dreamy meditation on the magic of our homes and our world.

Before there was this house,
there were stones,
and mud,
and a colossal oak tree—
three hugs around
and as high as the blue.

What was your home, once?

This poetically simple, thought-provoking, and gorgeously illustrated book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.

About The Author

Photograph by Ben Ledbetter

Deborah Freedman was an architect once, but now she builds houses and worlds in picture books for children. She lives in Connecticut, in a colorful house near woods, a muddy river, and a large rock ridge. You can learn more about Deborah and her books—including Blue Chicken; The Story of Fish & Snail; Shy; and This House, Once—at DeborahFreedman.net.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (February 2017)
  • Length: 40 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481442848
  • Grades: P - 3
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Lexile ® 400L

Raves and Reviews

A Spring 2017 Kids' Indie Next List pick: "Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers" 

"Deborah Freedman's dreamy "This House, Once"...is not offering us a plan for some future home.... Instead the book is a blueprint for mindfulness and gratitude for the homes in which we already live. With the wooziness that comes from sitting close to a fire, and in a whisper of colors that have the hypnotic allure of bruises, Freedman deconstructs and rebuilds her toasty house...so long as the embers of Freedman's incantation continue to glow, I'm in no rush."

– The New York Times Book Review, February 12, 2017

*STARRED REVIEW* "Softly, poetically, an unseen narrator explores a house and what it is made of.... Using pencil (both gray and colored), watercolor, and pastel—all with a supreme delicacy—Freedman builds this house.... The arc emphasizes shelter but also human use of nature, so the feelings of warmth, safety, and coziness hold the faintest tinge of melancholy and loss. Tender, comforting, and complex."

– Kirkus Reviews, November 2016, *STARRED REVIEW*

*STARRED REVIEW* "Freedman (Shy) lyrically meditates on the origins of a house.... "What were these all, once?" Freedman’s gentle inquiry is drawn with exquisite precision and quiet dashes of humor, and it will leave children thinking about the way their own houses are an extension of the natural world, with “memories” of the resources used to bring them into existence."

– Publishers Weekly, November 2016, *STARRED REVIEW*

*STARRED REVIEW* "In a story that’s more poetic than technical, select pieces of a home are highlighted to emphasize the idea that a house remembers.... Freedman has created a cozy offering to share that will spark curiosity. Conversations centered on questions such as, “How was our house made?,” “Where did the various materials come from?,” and “What function does it serve?” between a caregiver and child will carry on the ideas presented in this title long after it has been set down. VERDICT: A lovely, ruminative selection, best shared one-on-one or in a small group setting."

– School Library Journal, January 2017, *STARRED REVIEW*

"Combining lyrical language and cozy mixed-media artwork, Freedman celebrates the elements of the natural world (oak, stones, mud, rocks, and sand) used in the construction of a house.... Dreamy and imaginative."

– Booklist, November 2016

Awards and Honors

  • NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts
  • Wisconsin State Reading Association's Reading List

Resources and Downloads

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