Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

“Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country” is how Virginia Lee Burton begins her story about a beautiful little house set in a perfect natural environment full of blossoming apple trees, white daisies and cows munching on grass. 

The Little House was built to last generations. But time brings with it change. First a road was built which introduced more people and cars and traffic. Then more houses were built, large apartment blocks and tenement housing. All this bustle and noise crowded around the Little House. Next came trolley cars rushing back and forth in front of the Little House and the air became horribly filled with pollution. There was even a subway train built underground that the Little House couldn’t see but could feel rumbling along underground.

The Little House became sad at all this noise and pollution. She had also been neglected and was in sore need of a painting and some minor repairs. Then one day the great-great-granddaughter of the man who built the Little House discovered her. She organised for the Little House to be jacked up, put on wheels, and moved back out to the country. At last the Little House was happy again.

A Story That is True to Life

I must admit, I could very much relate to this picture book. I have lived in a house in West Melbourne for the last 20 years that looks very similar to the Little House. My house has a door in the middle and two windows on either side, just like the Little House. Over the years I’ve seen much building go on around me, plus traffic increases out the front.  Virginia Lee Burton’s book, with its beautiful drawings and soft colours, has a pleasant sentimentality that makes us long for an idyllic time and place of quiet and tranquillity, away from noisy, bustling city life. It’s a bit of an unrealistic dream, but a pleasant one to indulge in nonetheless.

If there is a lesson The Little House is trying to teach us perhaps it is that in the mad rush for progress and industry, something important has been lost. The ability to enjoy life for its simple pleasures.

The Little House
, by Virginia Lee Burton. Published by Sandpiper. ISBN: 978-0395259382  $12.95