Your House, My House – by Marianne Dubuc, Kids Can Press, 2020
Marianne Dubuc is a Canadian author and illustrator whose books have been published in both French and English. Her books feature detailed and fanciful depictions of the both the natural world and busy communities populated by anthropomorphic animals. Her latest book, Your House, My House, invites young readers into a gracious multifamily structure, 3 Maple Street, where Little Rabbit is about to celebrate his birthday. Like a dollhouse, the building is visible as a cutaway section, with lots going on simultaneously from kitchen to attic. Readers can pay attention to one room at a time or choose to take in the whole bustling hive of different but also related families.
One moment of action includes a cat unloading packages from a truck at one entrance to the house, while a fox sweeps his way over to the descending spiral staircase at the other. No wonder he is cleaning; the mother fox is pregnant, standing beside a crib with mobile while her first child clings to her. Next door, a bear in polka dot pajamas talks on a phone, anachronistically tethered to a curled wire. On the first floor, a young hedgehog draws pictures on the floor while a parent waters plants; the mouse family two stories up is less tidy, with lots of clutter next to the triple bunk beds for their larger family. Turning the pages, we gradually learn more about these and other connected characters. A doctor-dog pays a house call to the bear in pajamas, and the little fox needs to go stay with the rabbit family temporarily. Children will delight in following the simple plot lines, all the while waiting to see how the birthday party turns out. There are also witty cameo appearances by beloved folk tale characters.
Adult readers may immediately call to mind the work of Richard Scarry, as well as to contemporary artist like Britta Teckentrup and Rotraut Susanne Berner. Each illustrator in this genre is different; Dubuc’s books combine a clear narrative unfolding in one location, surprising readers with links among different residents of the house, as well as alluding to the literary legacy of folklore (such as Little red Riding Hood, below). The figures are and their surroundings are delicate and gentle. Everyone is friendly and the support of family and neighbors is presented as a normal part of life in their community. A cycling turtle keeps safe with his helmet and Little Rabbit remembers to bring a piece of cake to the recovering bear. Dubuc’s tone of comfort and security, along with her brightly colored scenes of everyday life punctuated with a little excitement, make Your House, My House, a place where children will feel at home.