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The House in the Night Hardcover – May 5, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* A young girl is given a golden key to a house. “In the house / burns a light. / In that light / rests a bed. On that bed / waits a book.” And so continues this simple text, which describes sometimes fantastical pleasures as a bird from the book spirits the child through the starry sky to a wise-faced moon. The cumulative tale is a familiar picture-book conceit; the difference in success comes from the artwork. Here, the art is spectacular. Executed in scratchboard decorated in droplets of gold, Krommes’ illustrations expand on Swanson’s reassuring story (inspired by a nursery rhyme that begins, “This is the key of the kingdom”) to create a world as cozy inside the house as it is majestic outside. The two-page spread depicting rolling meadows beyond the home, dotted with trees, houses, barns, and road meeting the inky sky, is mesmerizing. The use of gold is especially effective, coloring the stars and a knowing moon, all surrounded with black-and-white halos. A beautiful piece of bookmaking that will delight both parents and children. Preschool-Kindergarten. --Ilene Cooper

Review

"Krommes’s widening perspective manages to exude both comfort and daring." -- New York Times Book Review
 
"Here the art is spectacular. Executed in scratchboard decorated in droplets of gold, Krommes’ illustrations expand on Swanson’s reassuring story (inspired by a nursury rhyme that begins, “This is the key of the kingdom”) to create a world as cozy inside a house as it is majestic outside."--Booklist, starred review
 
"Inspired by traditional cumulative poetry, Swanson weaves a soothing song that is as luminescent and soulful as the gorgeous illustrations that accompany her words. . . . It is a masterpiece that has all the hallmarks of a classic that will be loved for generations to come."--School Library Journal, starred review
 
"Krommes’s breathtaking scratchboard illustrations, in black and white with accents of yellow and gold, embody and enhance the text’s message that light and dark, like comfort and mystery, are not mutually exclusive, but integral parts of each other."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
 
"This volume's artful simplicity, homely wisdom and quiet tone demonstrate the interconnected beauty and order of the world in a way that both children and adults will treasure."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
"...in another standout performance by an illustrator, Beth Krommes makes a case for The House in the Night with scratchboard images that are themselves a throwback, but with a welcome kind of familiarity... I can see a night-skittish child taking comfort in this story at bedtime."-- The Washington Post (online)
 
"[A] book of stunning visual simplicity . . . The pictures themselves seem to reach out from domesticity toward infinity."--Liz Rosenberg, Boston Sunday Globe
 
"It's Wanda Gag meets Virginia Lee Burton.  And gorgeous.  Did I mention gorgeous?  Gorgeous."-- Fuse 8 Production (online), by Betsy Bird
 
"[Swanson] has a lyrical style all her own, complemented by Krommes' starkly stunning scratchpaper drawings."-- StarTribune
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 60L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618862447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618862443
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

SUSAN MARIE SWANSON is the author of Getting Used to the Dark: 26 Night Poems and the picture book Letter to the Lake, both illustrated by Peter Catalanotto. As a visiting poet in schools, she reads and writes poetry with children. Her reviews and essays about children's literature regularly appear in Riverbank Review, for which she is a contributing editor. Ms. Swanson lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Sometimes, just sometimes, you want to read a beautiful picture book. Not a pretty picture book or a mildly lovely one or a picture book that will please you the first ten times you read it to a child and then hardly anymore after that. No, I'm talking about a jaw-dropping, kick-you-in-the-pants, douse your cigar hussy of a beautiful picture book. The kind that works against your book-loving instincts, tempting you to rip out the pages and frame them on your wall. That kind of book. The first time I saw an ad for "The House in the Night" by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes I wanted it. Generally scratchboard art doesn't appeal to me, but there's something different about this title. Gentle bedtime reading, consider this a book that is designed to illuminate a child's dreams.

Inspired by a cumulative poem found in The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book, Swanson's words are short simple. "Here is the key to the house / In the house burns a light / In that light rests a bed." As we read, a small child places the key on a hook as a dog, a cat, and some kittens mill about. She walks into the room and spots a book on the bed. "In that book flies a bird." As the text grows expansive, discussing the bird's song, the girl imagines taking a trip on its back above the land, "Through the dark", past the moon, and the sun, and the sky. In the end she goes to bed, not far from the key in, "the house in the night, a home full of light." The shape of the story allows it to go from a small intimate story to an exciting flight around the world, and then back to bed where the little girl curls up cozily and falls asleep.
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Format: Hardcover
This will become a classic good night book. The illustrations are wonderful & the story a delight. Each page has treasures to explore.
This book will be on my "buy 10" and give out as presents all year list.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The illustrations are fabulously rich and textured; the story is simple and comforting. Highly original and effective use of color -- only black, white, and golden yellow.

We checked this out from the library, and my 5-year-old loves it. Truth be told, I probably love it even more. I'll be buying a copy for our family and several more as gifts.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book offers an age-old tune with new words. Taking after the old story that starts "This is the key to the kingdom," Ms. Swanson updates it to use modern, recognizable objects within the reader's own home. The scratchboard illustrations accent the true depth and reassuring tone of the story that leads readers to better understand order through repetition.
Krommes illustration technique of scratchboard with intermittent color accentuating the important parts of the story lead the reader to a textured, moving realm of literature. As Swanson uses simple words to help children know order and objects, the storyline also tells the tale of a child getting ready for bed and using his/her imagination to travel outside his/her home. After going into the home, into her room, into her book, and into the world the reader is then transported back into the book, into the room, into the house, and into the world of the character.
As a former art major student and artist I can fully appreciate the time it took for the illustrations in this book to be created. Scratchboard a difficult medium to work in, and can create a great deal of movement in the final piece.
As for the text, it does do a wonderful job in reinforcing timeline, order, and organization. The naming of basic objects, and the illustrations of more to name later on your own, creates a learning opportunity for young readers. The underlying message of being able to leave your home in your imagination through books, and the ability to return to it later, just as you left it is a wonderful way to entice young readers to read more books.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most beautiful picture books of the year. The contrast of the black and yellow throughout the book amplifies the book's theme of the light and comfort that can be found at night. A perfect book to read to a baby or toddler to alleviate their fears of the darkness. Truly a lovely book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My 6 month old is fascinated by the black and white pictures and the rhymes in this book. This will be a book read for many years to come. I just fell in love with this book and think she will too, over and over again.
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Format: Hardcover
Based off of a beloved children's book or yore called "This is the Key of the Kingdom" in which the same cyclical nature of the narrative takes place, Swanson seeks to replicate the way the story looks and feels with her own book as well as expound upon it. The book starts out by stating simply, "Here is the key to the house," and builds from there. There is no rhyming, as is typical of poetry directed at this age group, but despite that, there is a poetic quality to the writing. The book begins and ends with the same type of thoughts, "the house in the night, a home full of light" but throughout the middle, the child is taken on a wonderful journey with the moon as she ushers in night in the city, creating a fantasy element out of the mystery of the moon and dreams.

The writing itself is simple and easy to follow, definitely aimed toward the 1-5 age group as an illustrated children's book, but the illustrations are beautiful and enrapturing. Unquestionably, this is a young children's book, but I believe that because of the unique quality of the illustrations, readers of any age can enjoy and be inspired by it to create their own art and writing that will add to the human dialogue and culture. I recommend this text to all readers for it's artistic merit, but specifically to ages 1 - 5.

-Lindsey Miller, lindseyslibrary
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