If You Live Here by Kate Gardner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

If You Live Here by Kate Gardner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2022. 9780062865328

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Picture book

What did you like about the book? Enter the world of your imagination and discover what it would be like to live in a tree house, a spaceship, a dollhouse or a submarine, to name a few scenes in this delightful book. Each two page spread has a simple ‘if, then’ structured sentence, with a richly imagined world illustrated with details to pore over. For example, “If you live in a burrow, everyone snuggles.” shows a world of tunnels and burrows on a deep brown background (astute readers will recognize Neal’s wonderful mixed media art of the underground from books he illustrated for author Kate Messner). Squirrels play in a bathtub, a mole reads next to a stack of books, children snuggle with foxes and other small animals, and various intriguing and funny details invite kids to imagine what else happens.

Many of the spreads are on black or deep blue backgrounds, making for stunning displays of dark and light. My favorite is “If you live in a submarine, you must like strange visitors.”, showing a small submarine deep in a black murky sea, with a giant smiling sea creature illuminated in the sub’s spotlight. Various jellyfish float by, one of which is reading a book. Many of the human children pictured have brown skin and many of them are pictured reading. This is a fabulous book to examine and wonder about with a child on one’s lap.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? Hand this to fans of Neal’s other books, those who liked Carson Ellis’s Home, ages 3-5, and anyone who enjoys imaginative picture books.

Who should buy this book? Day care centers and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: March 30, 2022

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