Two Favorite House-Building Books

I’ve been spending some time over the last few weeks working on a list of wonderful picture books for the summer, as well as the list of books about moving, and while going through all of those books, I realized I had the perfect pair of books to share with you! So, today, I bring you two wonderful books about building houses– Building Our House by Jonathan Bean and If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen!


Building Our House is yet another book that I discovered during a Mock Caldecott unit
(you can read a little about that unit here) in 2014, and it has stuck with me since! Jonathan Bean uses this book to retell how is own family built a house from scratch, and he’s included a fascinating Author’s Note with photographs and information about his own house-building experience as a child.

There is so much to love about Building Our House beyond the fact that it’s fascinating to watch a family actually build their own house themselves. As always, Bean’s illustrations are delightful. Be sure to check out the endpapers, which by themselves tell a delightful story of change over time. Then, notice how he uses full-page spreads, single-page illustrations, and multiple vignettes per page. These choices effectively focus the reader on either an important event or emotion in the story, show the passage of time, or allow us to see what multiple characters are doing at once. Lastly, I absolutely love that in this story, as well as in Bean’s real life, the mother and the little girl are right there with the men, working to build this house. Our daughters always think that if something is broken and requires tools to fix, then they have to wait till Daddy is home… While we’re actively trying to model that women can be handy, too, I love having a book that shows this in action!

Now, If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen… Whereas Building Our House is a serious, realistic take on building a house, If I Built a House allows children to let their imaginations and creativity run wild! Once again, be sure to look at the endpapers here, which take children through the trial-and-error beginning of design to sketching out a final plan. Typical of Van Dusen’s books, the gouache illustrations are richly colored and fill every page. And, as with many of his other books, they are so full of detail that they’re a delight to study with every reading. My girls especially love the mother’s facial expressions as she takes her “tour” of her son’s house, as well as searching for the dog and what he’s up to on every page.

Van Dusen is a master of perfect read-aloud books, and his rhyme and rhythm here don’t disappoint. It’s just so fun to read out loud! This story, told from the perspective of the little boy, reads as if that child is indeed talking (phrases like “Don’t worry, it’s cool,” “The food is deelish,” and “superfast go-karts”), which makes it even more relatable for the children. Yet, Van Dusen also works in some wonderful vocabulary-building opportunities, managing to fit words like “exquisitely” into his rhythm perfectly.


Are you in the middle of constructing your own house? Do your children constantly talk about the features they wish your house had? Do you like reading different books about a common topic? Or are you just looking for wonderful illustrated and engaging books to share with your children? Then be sure to check out Building Our House and If I Built a House!


If you liked these, check out:

If I Built a Car and If I Built a School (releasing in August 2019, but I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful, too!) by Chris Van Dusen (we also love The Circus Ship and Hattie and Hudson, though they’re not about building, but be sure to click those titles to see my reviews!)

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beatty

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

Made by Maxine by Ruth Spiro (you can read my full review here)

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