Leo and his father love their home in an vintage blue house right subsequent to an imposing fir tree. It’s a rickety, scrappy home with peeling paint, a mossy roof, “leaks and creaks” and a heater that regularly breaks. And this is simply how they prefer it.
But the neighborhood across the blue residence is changing, with nearby houses torn down to build modern-day apartments. When the owner sells their blue house, Leo and his father have to also move. Grief-stricken, they slowly acclimate to their new home by using painting its interior; they even paint a photograph of their beloved old blue house and its fir tree onto a bedroom wall. As they take their time unpacking their familiar property into their unusual surroundings, their new house ever so slowly becomes extra of a domestic.
Author and illustrator Phoebe Wahl makes use of every device at her disposal to cautiously construct the details of her indelible characters and their world. Leo’s hair hangs down nearly to his waist, whilst his father sports a bearded, scruffy look. When they want to vent their anger about being pressured to move, they turn on music, stomping and raging as a team: “They shredded on guitar, and Leo did a special scream solo.” (This may go down as the most punk image ebook of 2020.)
The blue house is cluttered but relaxed, full of matters Leo and his dad love, consisting of vinyl records, plants, artwork at the partitions and a stereo with large speakers. Their delightfully unkempt yard consists of a thriving vegetable garden, tall sunflowers, a trampoline and a clothesline. Rendered in watercolor, gouache, college and coloured pencil, Wahl’s illustrations are just like the vintage blue residence itself—ramshackle and endearing, with not anything glossy about them. They are as worn-in, cozy and cushty as the house Leo and his father leave behind and mourn.
Best of all, however, is Wahl’s depiction of the soft and loving relationship between father and son. In one image, as the two take a seat dejectedly on a bed surrounded by means of unpacked packing containers of their new home, Leo leans into his father for an embrace, resting his head in his father’s lap, the gesture speaking volumes while pronouncing not anything at all.
The Blue House is an immensely satisfying picture e book about a family acclimating to a massive change.