Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Little House

I have shared this cartoon before in a post about the art of Mary Blair.  Seriously, it is one of my most favorite cartoons of all time - the art direction of Mary Blair and the vocal talents of Sterling Holloway - how could it be beat?

"The Little House" (1952)

Today, while perusing the book stalls of a thrift store I found it!  In the very back corner, on the very bottom shelf, of the very last stack of books I was looking through, I found a rather time-worn copy of The Little House.  Now I am no bibliophile; I rarely look through the book section while thrifting as I am more intent on finding clothes and housewares.  I like books, but usually my favorites are purely picture-based.  Well, it goes without saying then that I love children's books - especially heavily-illustrated examples from the first part of the 20th Century that inspire my favorite cartoons.

Yes, in this dust jacket-less copy, there are some ink marks, plenty of dog ears, and a sagging binding, but I say, "Let he that is without a sagging binding cast the first stone."  I just couldn't leave behind this sweet 1946 printing of the The Little House.  The author, Virginia Lee Bruce, quite well known for another children's classic, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, won The Caldecott Medal for The Little House in 1942 for "The most distinguished American picture book for children."  That's right, Ms. Lee Burton  illustrated the book as well.  In 1952, Walt Disney released the cartoon of the same name.

At some point in it's nearly 70 year life, this book belonged to Tommy.  Here are a few of my favorite pages from The Little House.

"Now the Little House only saw the sun at noon, and didn't see the moon or
stars at all because the lights of the city were too bright.  She didn't like living
in the city.  At night she used to dream of the country and the field of daisies
and the apple trees dancing in the moonlight.

The Little House was very sad and lonely.  Her paint was cracked and dirty...
Her windows were broken and her shutters hung crookedly.  She looked
shabby...though she was just as good a house as ever underneath."

Concept art for "The Little House" - Mary Blair
Notice the product placement - even in the 50's!
"Once again she was lived in and taken care of."

"Never again would she be curious about the city...
Never again would she want to live there...
The stars twinkled above her...
A new moon was coming up...
It was Spring..
and all was quiet and peaceful in the country."

I tend to feel like the Little House; the city is interesting, but I think I would be happiest in the country, surrounded by daisy fields and apple trees.  The Little House definitely inspired the styling that I look for in a home; I love symmetry and a house with a "face."  I've said it before, but my favorite houses are those that look like a child's drawing of a house or at least an illustration from a children's book.

I think my rescuing The Little House directly echoes the storyline.  The Little House "didn't like living in the [thrift store].  At night she used to dream of [Mr. Tiny's house]...Her [spine was] broken and her [cover] hung crookedly.  She looked shabby...though she was just as good a [book] as ever underneath."  Now, "once again she was [read] and taken care of."  Although, Mr. Tiny wouldn't normally end a sentence with a preposition.


Mr. Tiny


  1. Oh I LOVE that little book! I actually seriously just ordered 3 copies of it for the Retro Roadkids, as it just celebrated its 70th birthday. I'm an old softie as that book just gets me choked up sometimes.

    1. Isn't it wonderful? An allegory for the ages, to be sure. I'm at a point in my life where I feel like The Little House and just want a peaceful life in the country!

  2. I LOVE this book! Do you know how often I search for vintage childrens books at thrift stores hoping to find a gem like this! Score! I will continue to search for a copy for my classrom.

    1. Hiya Emily! We found it at Lutheran right after we saw you! I was so glad to find this book and I would happily pass it on to you but honestly, I don't think it has enough life left in it. I think one handling by an over-anxious kid and this one would be in tatters. It is still in print though.