Although we’re happily back home now, one of the many treats for M (and me) whilst we were at my parents was being allowed to play with the dolls’ house that used to belong to my sister. As it is full of rather beautiful but fragile fixtures and fittings this was the first time it had been brought out of storage for playing with, and M just lapped up the specialness of it all. Almost every afternoon whilst her sister slept she was up in the loft room unpacking all the treasures (so many of them had been lovingly packed in soft bits of fabric scraps or coloured paper tissue) and gradually filling each room in the dolls’ house. I was amazed with her dexterity at setting it all up.
Once everything was unpacked and in place M wanted to play “Hunca Munca” with the dolls’ house. This entails pretending to be mice (called Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb) who steal a feather bolster and other bits and pieces from a beautiful dolls’ house to use in their own mousehole behind the skirting board, just as in Beatrix Potter’s wonderful story The Two Bad Mice.
Of course we pulled out the original Beatrix Potter story and re-read it (there once was a time when for several weeks it was the only story M wanted to listen to and it is always fun to return to books that were once so all consuming), and then we had fun making sure all the details from the original appeared in our playing – trying to smash the food was especially fun…
When I finally needed a break from being a murine thief I got out Cynthia Rylant and Wendy Anderson Halperin‘s Let’s Go Home and we had a very cozy afternoon reading that and exploring each room in the dolls’ house just as they are described in the house.
Let’s Go Home reminds my girls and me of the beauty and love to be found in little corners around our home, from the living room where “there is usually a big sofa, and it is meant to ask you to sit and stay awhile” to the bedrooms (“they shelter us from the world like no other rooms can“) and the attic (“filled with the past“). Special attention is paid to the heart of many homes, the kitchen, “the room that reminds people to look after each other“.
The poetic text balances lines of a more philosophical nature with astute observations that ground the description of the house in something very real, not just an abstract notion of home, such as dogs not liking refrigerators with freezers at the bottom “as their noses get frosty” or finding toy dinosaurs in the bathroom.
For M I think it is the illustrations by Wendy Halperin that draw her back to this book again and again. They are full of details which remind her of her own home (eg the plastic animals in the flower border, baking cookies in fancy dress, the cutting and gluing taking place on the kitchen table), and other details which she would love us to adopt – beautiful mobiles or fairly lights in just about every room, a litter of kittens running amok, or being allowed to play with mummy’s makeup in the bathroom.
The use of colour in the illustrations is clever – the house is full of it, creating a happy and creative atmosphere, and yet it never appears intense or frenzied.
The house depicted so warmly in this book seems to me (a non-american) to be something of the idealized American homestead – a rambling, detached clapboard house with a large porch and garden all around – but this book nevertheless says something about all our homes, whether high-rise flats or new builds: “no matter the kind of house, it is the living inside that makes it wonderful“.
Let’s Go Home :
Whilst we’ve been playing with the fixtures and fittings and all the little dolls we’ve been listening to Our House by Madness (see below) and another Our House this time by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. We’ve also had on Doll House by Mr. Kim Webster.
Our House by Madness
There are lots of wonderful dolls house related activities we’ve found since coming home. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we’ll be able to get up to some of these:
It would be lovely to hear about some of your favourite books which feature houses and homes