Goodbye House, Hello House
Allen & Unwin, 2019
32pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99
This is the last time I’ll fish in this river.
This is the last time I’ll run through these trees.
This is the last time I’ll dream by this fire …
In scenes familiar to many, Emma is saying goodbye to all the familiar places in her old home in the country as her family prepares to move to a new one in the city. Perhaps the most poignant is when she changes the writing on the wall from Emma lives here to Emma lived here. But rather than being maudlin and upset, the story turns around as she arrives at the new house and she anticipates all the possibilities it offers. And this time changes the writing on the wall of her new room by changing the old Kim lives here to Emma lives here now, consolidating the idea that change happens and things move on.
Even though Wild has used a minimum of text, James’s illustrations tell much of the story with the backgrounds depicting the juxtaposition of the two houses, with the unique depiction of Emma superimposed on them showing that she remains the same and the experiences she will have will still be familiar in many respects. Against the muted background, Emma really pops out with all her emotions on display, again demonstrating that the story of a little girl is what’s important rather than the place she finds herself in. We are still who we are despite the circumstances that surround us.
Many young readers will have stories to tell that are similar to Emma’s and this offers them the opportunity to open up about their experiences and emotions, particularly those around starting a new school as Emma will have to do. It may offer some insight into how scary things can be for those who have not had the experience.