Home by Carson Ellis, Candlewick, $16.99 ages 4-8
Judge this book by its gorgeous cover, please. The story of “Home” starts there. With a gingerbread house, an igloo, a nest, a barn, a palace, a spider web, and a covered wagon among other spot illustrations, the book’s jacket looks like a bingo card of habitats, inviting readers to play Carson Ellis’s beautiful imagination game of house hunting.
Ellis, best known for the illustrations she made for the middle grade series, “Wildwood,” makes her solo debut with this artist’s book for children. There are only a few words on each spread of “Home,” which unfolds as a kind of whimsical house tour. Instead of a traditional story structure the book seems to follow the artist’s mind as she meditates on the theme.
The book bursts with contrasts: “Home is a house in the country” and an apartment in the city; there tall homes and short homes, neat homes and messy homes — real types of people and fantastical residents, including Atlantians.
The wild differences in the dwellings — the adorned and the simple each painted in exquisitely specific detail—make plain the distances among the people who live in them: musicians on a tour bus, a Japanese businessman, a Kenyan blackmith, a Slovakian duchess. And yet the limited, moody colors of the paintings — each page holds the same range of grays and browns with miniature bursts of blue and red—bind the inhabitants in the artist’s expansive, unifying vision.
The charms of “Home” accrue as the delightful series of enchanting, contemplative tangents multiply. It is only at the close of the book when an image repeats that the narrative reveals its shape, circling back to close a loop, ending with a gentle surprise.
Nicole Lamy can be reached at email@example.com.