Posted in Book Review

A Boy and a House – Maja Kastelic

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A Boy and a House is a short wordless and whimsical picture book that tells the story of a boy following a cat.

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On the first page, we see a little boy leaving his house on Grimm Street at dusk and is walking down a dimly street. There’s a woman walking ahead of him; she’s wearing a red dress and a green hat. Apparently hearing his echoing footfalls, she glances back at the boy.

The lights are on in the houses on the street and we see their occupants going about their evening. Some are chatting, a man is having dinner, a woman is gazing at herself in front of a mirror and a girl is gazing out the window dreamily.

The boy walks past a man walking his dog and an elderly man riding his bicycle. A few blocks away, on Andersen Street, he approaches a black cat sitting in front of a door standing slightly ajar. The black cat appears to have been waiting for the boy in front of the house. The boy follows the cat into the house.

The hall is cluttered with flyers on the walls, a baby pram and graffitis scrawled across the walls. There’s a sign on the wall just by the entrance that says, “Close the doors”. Another sign on the wall says, “Kindly ask you all to take care of this house…Keeper”. Below this message is the author’s name, Maja. A red umbrella is propped on the wall by another door that’s been left slightly ajar, at the west wing. There are six mailboxes on the wall and a discarded drawing on the floor. The drawing is of a girl in the sun.

The little boy picks up the drawing and follows the cat up a series of staircases. The cat patiently waits for the boy on the landing of the first staircase. The boy follows the cat through a room with a bookcase stacked with books. The cat walks ahead and waits for him behind a lantern atop a stack of tomes on the floor. The boy follows the cat into a dining room and bends to retrieve another drawing on the floor.

The cat gallops up ahead of him, looking back every few leaps to make sure the boy is behind him. The boy runs down a corridor lined with huge paintings in gilt frames. He walks past more bookcases, framed pictures on the wall, birdcages, a red wingback chair, a red unspooled yarn, a vinyl record player, a globe, and bric-a-brac littered around. He picks up more discarded drawings on the way.

Finally, the cat leads him up another spiral staircase to an attic where he finds a little girl making paper planes. Together, they climb up onto the roof of the attic to watch their paper planes and birds soaring on thermal updrafts. By now, we see it’s sunrise.

I really liked the of the illustrations of this book. I loved how the author uses only pictures, leaving the book to the reader’s interpretation. The ending left me wondering if the boy left his house in the early hours of the morning or at nightfall. Brilliant!
I thought the concept of the muted tones the author used in the book and the subtle messages she left in each room were well done. I loved the atmosphere and was curious to find out what or where the black cat was leading the little boy. I read this book several times over to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

This is a debut novel by the author and I would love to read more of her books in future. Highly recommended to kids and those who appreciate well-crafted picture books filled with underlying messages and subtle beauty.

  • Pages: 32
  • Publisher: Annick Press (11 September 2018)

 

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