Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Small Wonders

I’ve been poring over a book for adults lately, but my fascination with the book and its subject goes back to childhood. The book is Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter, Scaling Back in the 21st Century by Lloyd Kahn (Shelter Publications, 2012). It’s a wonderful, rambling compendium of photos, floor plans, and stories about very, very small houses.

The maximum size of these houses is five hundred square feet. That’s tiny…and immensely appealing to me, both when I was young and (still on some level) today.

I can trace the fascination back to Scuppers, the hero of Margaret Wise Brown’s Sailor Dog (Golden Books, 1953), illustrated in loving detail by Garth Williams. 

Scuppers lived solo on a cozy ship where, Brown writes, “he put his hat on the hook for his hat, and his rope on the hook for his rope, and his pants on the hook for his pants, and his spyglass on the hook for his spyglass, and he put his shoes under the bed and got into his bed, which was a bunk, and went to sleep."

What’s not to like about a home that fits like a glove, a home with a place for everything and everything in its place?

If you’re interested in other books for children that feed a fascination with small spaces and life in miniature, try these:

The Sixty-Eight Rooms (Random House, 2010) by Marianne Malone takes readers inside the Thorne Rooms, a collection of miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010) drew me in with its original cover, showing a small trailer home. Not unsurprisingly, this tiny home is one of the most stable and comforting elements in the main character Addie's life.

The Doll People (Hyperion, 2000) by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, with exquisite illustrations by Brian Selznick, pulls readers into the life of a family of dolls in an antique dollhouse.

The Borrowers (Harcourt, 1953) by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush, posits that a society of very small people lives under our own floorboards, “borrowing” from us all that they need to live on a fascinatingly small scale.

None of these is a very long or large book, proving that great things come in small packages. Enjoy!

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