Henry Holt and Company, 2001
Standing strong and proud, a trusty old farmhouse reflects on its beginnings, remembering the Fairchild family who built it more than two hundred years ago and comparing what life was like then to the bustling world of the Gray family, its present dwellers.
With rich historical detail and warm affirmation of both past and present, When I Was Built celebrates continuity and change, as it conveys the welcoming spirit that makes a house a much-loved home.
It’s not just the walls that talk in Thermes’s first children’s book it’s the entire house. “I watch the world pass by,” muses the narrator, an 18th-century dwelling that has survived to the present day, “and sometimes think about the way things were when I was first built.” A series of comparisons follow in which the house points out the advantages of sanitation and central heating, while also waxing poetic about the simplicity and the quiet of bygone days. In one scene of the house’s present-day owners, a harried and caffeine-fueled mother deals with a fax machine, portable phone, computer and answering machine while her children dance to a portable CD player; on the opposing page, a considerably calmer gentleman writes with a quill. On another spread, the text notes that nowadays electricity “light[s] up the night with noise and chatter,” in direct contrast to the original owners, 300 years ago, gathered cozily around the hearth, “talking or reading or telling stories, their faces aglow in the flickering candles.” Thermes’s crisp ink line and austere draftsmanship lend her pictures an elegant airiness. An attractive palette of homey colors green, brick, gold imbues them with a sense of both history and domesticity. Ages 4-7. –Publishers Weekly
“… this book is sure to appeal to the many children who wonder how things were “a long time ago” and who will be fascinated with both the differences and similarities. –School Library Journal