________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 36. . . .May 21, 2010


Emily’s House.

Niko Scharer. Illustrated by Joanne Fitzgerald.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2010.
22 pp., board, $9.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-831-6.

Preschool / Ages 2-4.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4



Emily lived in a little brick house With a creaky old door and a little brown mouse. Emily listened and Emily frowned ‘Cause Emily heard two very loud sounds! For the door went creak And the mouse went squeak And Emily cried with a great big tear And she said, “There’s too much noise in here!”

Well, Emily sighed, “Oh what to do?” But the mouse said, “Get us a pussycat too.”

Originally published in 1990, this delightful cumulative tale has been republished in a more durable board book format, a wise choice as its join-in story is one that toddlers will want to hear read to them again and again and one that they will want to “read” on their own when adults aren’t available.

    As the excerpt above indicates, as the story opens, little Emily has a problem - well, two actually. The silence of her two-story, old brick house out in the country is being broken by the annoyingly “loud sounds” of a creaking front door and a squeaking house mouse. When Emily doesn’t know what to do about the offending noises, the mouse has a suggestion, the logic of which isn’t immediately obvious, given that the mouse’s suggestion is that a cat, one of its predators, be introduced into the house. Emily follows the mouse’s recommendation, but the cat’s loud meowing only adds to the level of the preexisting noise. Again the mouse has a proposed solution to the increased noise, a puppy dog. This pattern repeats itself, leading to a little sheep, a billy goat, a brown cow and a turtle dove also being brought into the little brick house. When Emily yells, “THERE’S TOO MUCH NOISE IN HERE!”, the mouse has one last suggestion, “Just try one thing new.” The mouse then evicts all the animals that he had caused Emily to bring into the house. After the cacophony of a meowing cat, bow-wowing dog, baa-ing sheep, maa-ing goat, mooing cow and cooing dove, a house with just a creaking door and a squeaking mouse was akin to complete silence for Emily.

     internal artJoanne Fitzgerald’s watercolour and ink illustrations are superb. Following the title page, the story is graphically introduced by a wordless, double page spread that shows Emily’s house in the countryside. Though readers don’t yet realize it, these pages also include all the animals that Emily will eventually fetch. Fitzgerald’s renderings of the rooms within Emily’s old-fashioned home provide lots of details for youngsters to pore over at their leisure. The increasing level of noise denoted by Scharer’s text is reinforced by the visual component wherein the pages are increasingly occupied by active animals.

     The book’s text is unchanged with two exceptions. In the original text, the mouse’s suggestion, “Get us a black sheep too” has become a “little sheep too.” While this change may have been made for reasons of political correctness, its follow through on the next page actually makes more story sense. The original read, “And she came home with a small black sheep.” Now that line reads, “And she came back home with a little lost sheep.” Given that later in the text “the sheep went baa/I want my maa”, it makes more sense that the young sheep be lost. One word change that was not made, and that could have been made, relates to the lines, “So Emily left with a five pound note/And she came back home with a billy goat.” Given that the intended young audience would likely have no idea of what five pound notes are, the word “dollar” could have been easily substituted.

    Though two decades have passed since Emily’s House was first published, the book still speaks to today’s youngsters, and it definitely belongs in homes with toddlers and in libraries serving preschoolers.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM’s editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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