Friday, August 2, 2013

Horn book review



by Hyewon Yum; illus. by the author

Preschool, Primary    Foster/Farrar    40 pp.

8/13    978-0-374-37487-7    $16.99    g

A young girl describes her home in terms of her family’s history, starting with, “This is the house where my grandparents arrived from far away with just two suitcases in hand.” The girl associates tangible aspects of the house and neighborhood (a tree, the street, the stairs) with meaningful kid-milestones and memories such as her mother learning to walk on the sidewalk outside the building. Time passes; Mom leaves for college, then returns “with the boyfriend who would be my father.” The young couple moves in, and new memories and milestones are celebrated, but some things remain constant (“This is the street where I learned to walk, just like my mom”). Yum’s rosy-cheeked, smiling characters and bright, expressive mixed-media illustrations (line and watercolor wash with homey smudges of crayon or pastel), some of which are set up in picture frames to reinforce the family-history theme, offer visual warmth to complement the comfortingly circular narrative arc. This is an immigrant tale, a celebration of family, a loving ode to place, and a study of the passage of time, all wrapped in a simply phrased narrative perfect for parental sharing and child commentary. claire e. gross

Booklist review

This Is Our House.

Yum, Hyewon (Author) , Yum, Hyewon (Illustrator)

Aug 2013. 40 p. Farrar/Frances Foster, hardcover, $16.99. (9780374374877).

Yum’s latest resembles a photo album and follows a little girl offering up a historical tour of the house she

shares with her parents, grandparents, and cat. She starts at the beginning, when her mother’s parents

“arrived from far away with just two suitcases in hand.” On one side of the spread (here and throughout

the book) is a watercolor framed like a photograph; the other side reveals a more complete view from the

same time period. The story continues, inside and in front of the two-story attached home, through her

mother’s childhood, departure for college, and return with “the boyfriend who would be my father.” Yum

depicts the girl’s grandparents as warm and welcoming, even as nervous new parents, and the girl’s

parents convey the same loving concern for their child. Some of the “framed” images pop up again on

walls in later pages, suggesting how the young narrator learned the history she’s relaying. Even before the

baby sibling is introduced on the last spread, this is a sweet tribute to continuity and togetherness.

— Abby Nolan

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review from NYT

Home is also at the heart of two new picture books, “This Is Our House,” written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, and “Once Upon a Northern Night,” written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (whose artwork for Trottier’s “Migrant” earned a New York Times Best Illustrated award). Yum, originally from South Korea but now living in Brooklyn, sets her story in a city that could very well be New York, among a family of recent immigrants whose country of origin is never specified; Pendziwol and Arsenault, both Canadian, describe a cozy home in a wintry rural landscape.
On the title page of “This Is Our House,” a watercolor illustration shows a photograph of a little girl peeking her head around a front door, as if to welcome the reader inside. On the next, a framed black and white photograph — again painted in watercolor — shows the house as it looked when her grandparents “arrived from far away with just two suitcases in hand.” In a pattern Yum continues throughout the book, the photo of the house is faced by a full-page scene. Here, the girl’s grandparents talk to each other as they stand outside their new home for the first time. The grandmother looks as if she is either shyly pleased, or hesitant. What is certain is her husband’s encouraging smile.
The photos reveal the public story, Yum seems to suggest, but there’s more to be told. And sure enough, the full-page scenes are intimate rather than posed: moments of action, and sometimes of crossness and tears; a little quarrel over the painting of the baby’s room on one side of the spread, a photo of the delighted expectant mother posing in a fully decorated room on the other. Mostly, the three generations who come to live in the house together display smiles and kind concern for one another.
Yum uses a springlike palette of yellow, pinks and greens, even when there’s snow on the sidewalk, and the little girl’s dark braids perfectly set off the fresh, happy colors. With time, the once-bare facade of the house comes to life with window boxes, flowering hedges and potted plants of the front stoop. The seasons cycle though the pictures as the family grows, including, at the end, a baby brother for the little narrator. She gives a slight twist to the book’s title in her final summary: “This is our home where my family lives.”