A magical and slightly surreal story about dealing with loss of a loved one.
This is the story of a boy and his Grandma. An award-wining architect, Grandma promises to build the boy a special house on a hill over the horizon, over a city and beyond the sea. But Grandma is getting old – too old to make houses. And, one day, she is gone. Without Grandma, the house is empty. It’s just rooms. But the boy has an idea – it requires a lot of work but the result is totally magical.
Based on a slightly surreal idea, this story is told in the most beautiful lyrical language while still managing to be accessible to young readers. Author, Ross Montgomery, also cleverly doesn’t give his boy a name allowing the child reader to more easily identify with the book’s main character. It’s similarly great to find Grandma’s earlier life – and her career success – included as an integral part of the story. (Grandparents are so often assigned the sole role of grandparent in children’s books).
While Ross Montgomery’s text is powerful, it is David Litchfield’s illustrations that make this book really stand out. The illustrations alone have to be worth the hardback cover price and children are likely to be captivated by these amazing pictures.
Wonderfully detailed, the illustrations have great pace with a gradual build-up of colours that sublimely evoke the mood. The story opens with a picture of warmth and love as the boy and Grandma snuggle by the fireplace. (It’s nice to see them surrounded by books!) The story continues with happy pictures on a light background before becoming darker and darker after Grandma’s death. The detail in the pages as the boy works through wind, snow and rain are enchanting and clearly show every beat of the story. And who can resist those wide eyes of the boy’s creation? From here on, the magic positively leaps off the page as we are transported into a moonlit world that will delight readers of all ages.
If you’re looking for a different book about loss, you can’t go wrong with the classic Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr. However, if you’d like something more recent that shares the same surreal quality as The Building Boy, why not check out Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies.