What would your dream house look like?

H.O.U.S.E. by Aleksandra Machowiak and Daniel Mizielinski (translated by Elzbieta Wojcik-Leese) is a book about dreams becoming reality. About imagination taking flight and bearing fruit. It’s also a nonfiction book about architecture. And, it’s wonderful!

I first came across the work of Aleksandra Machowiak and Daniel Mizielinski when I interviewed Jan Pieńkowski and asked him for some tips about Polish illustrators to look out for. With my recent addiction to books showing homes, houses and buildings through the ages I gave myself the perfect excuse to finally treat myself to H.O.U.S.E.. Why did I wait a year and a half to bring this IBBY Honour list book into our home? I don’t know, but we’re all very glad it now has a place in our house.

H.O.U.S.E. contains details of 35 unusual houses around the world. Illustrations of the actual houses are accompanied by short details on what was the inspiration for them, their location, a key to their construction and a portrait of the architect for each house. Kids love building dens and secret nooks, and this book is basically about adults who do exactly that. No wonder H.O.U.S.E. is so popular with my kids (and I’m 100% sure will excite your kids too).

Each of the houses in question is drawn, rather than photographed. I think this is an interesting decision given that these are houses which actually exist. Why would you draw something in a nonfiction book, when you could take a photo of it instead?

Perhaps the illustrations are somehow more inspiring, especially for children; photographs would make the object concrete and specific, rather than focusing on the imaginative side of the design.

By illustrating the buildings, Machowiak and Mizielinski have also been able to play with colours a lot; perhaps it’s because of the link in my head with Pieńkowski, but H.O.U.S.E. reminds me of the Meg and Mog books’ use of a limited range of flat, saturated, intense colours.

The fact the book is full of illustrations rather than photographs has encouraged us to go and find out more about each house, which I’m not sure we would have done if H.O.U.S.E. had been a photo album. It was as if we almost couldn’t believe the magic of each house – could such a fun building really exist?

The illustrations appear quite simple – black lines, plain colours, as few details as possible. My kids have looked at these and thought “Hey! I can do this”, and also “I want to do this”. Surely giving children such inspiration is a sign of a special book.

M, J and I completely adore this quirky, gorgeous, dream-inducing book. Does your school do a topic on homes/houses? Gift this book to them! Do your children like to make forts? Reserve this from the library! Do you like beautiful books? Treat yourself to H.O.U.S.E.!

Having read and returned to H.O.U.S.E. many times my girls have been drawing lots of houses, but they’ve also been building up a street of fantasy homes made out of tetrapak cartons. Here’s our recipe for doing so:

1. Rinse out your cartons and dry them.

2. Paint your cartons – we used acrylic paints as this adheres better to the carton surface than poster paint.

3. Using pretty paper, bits of silver foil, buttons, permanent pens and sticky borders (like those sold for scrapbooking or cardmaking), decorate your houses.

4. Build your street.

5. Choose which house you’d like to live in.

6. Make some people to be your neighbours… but you’ll have to wait for the next post to see how we did that!

Whilst making our houses we listened to:

  • Home by David Tobocman – you can watch the video here.
  • Your House is Strong by The Nields – a lovely love song to mothers, which you can listen to and watch here.
  • Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect by The Decemberists.

  • We’ve also been reading these wonderful books with amazing house and building illustrations:

  • La Rumeur de Venise by Albertine, a wordless, chinese-whisperes book set in Venice.
  • Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beatty, illustrated by David Roberts.
  • This Old House – A Day in Five Storeys by Richard Platt, illustrated by Leo Hartas.


  • What’s your favourite house in children’s literature? I always wanted to live in Laura Ingalls’ dugout by Plum Creek

    H.O.U.S.E. is a great nonfiction book, so today I’m linking up with Nonfiction Monday. This week’s host is True Tales & A Cherry On Top. Do click on through to see what other books are included in this week’s celebration of children’s nonfiction books.

    27 Responses

    1. choxbox

      Awesome – totally intrigues this civil engineer!

      Your colourful street facade reminds me of Balamory!

      Would love to live in Ingall Wilder’s dugout myself! But other than that there these many cottages in this resort called Dune in Pondicherry (near Chennai), each cottage is unique and very interesting, but my favourite is the dollhouse – a little cottage with lots of traditional Indian dolls and doll furniture in it. Needless to say my girls went nuts! The tree house is next on my favourites list!

      • Zoe

        Choxbox, is this it? http://www.thedunehotel.com/ Can’t find the dolls house one you mention, but the “village” does look pretty special. The architects must have had fun designing it. How did you get on with the BBC radio programme by the way?

    2. choxbox

      And that cover picture of the Richard Platt book is just like those dollhouses in the Museum of Childhood!

    3. Anu

      awesome!!! now i just have to look out for these wonderful books!! my son loves looking at houses and keeps trying to build different ones with his legos… he will love these books!
      Anu recently posted..Wild Encounters in Gir

      • Zoe

        Thanks Anu – I hope your son finds the book as inspiring as my daughters have 🙂

    4. Victoria

      I just discovered your blog and I think it’s amazing the kind of things you do with your kids. It’s brilliant. I’m going to be a regular follower here now. 🙂
      Victoria recently posted..First Digi Image Card

      • Zoe

        Hey Victoria, thankyou for your kind words 🙂 Looking forward to sharing more kids’ book goodness with you!

    5. choxbox

      Nah Zoe, been swamped with work on multiple fronts. Plus the trip that is about to happen – sending a mail. Hope to catch these on our journeys across the continents though so will download some, thanks!

      Yes that is the one. Dune is/was a sort of artists’ village, self-sustained and eco-friendly – they have cows which they milk and use for dairy requirements plus grow a lot of vegetables right there. It is right by the sea and has a clean beautiful stretch of the beach. Add to that the exotic cottages, each different from the other!

    6. sophie

      Hello zoe !
      This book looks great. I have ordered it (and the D.E.S.I.G.N one to !).
      Thanks for this nice post !!

    7. Jeanne Walker Harvey

      What a fun book! I agree with you — the fact that they used illustrations instead of photos does make it more intriguing. I look forward to reading this book.

      Thanks again for joining the Nonfiction Monday round-up!

      • Zoe

        Thanks Jean – I do think the illustrations help enable kids feel that they too could design buildings

    8. Ali B

      Beautiful book! I love the tree house; the trunk of the tree reminds me a little of Baba Yaga’s house on chicken legs. I think the house I’d most like to live in is Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s castle- Imagine being able to walk out of a different door into a different town!
      Ali B recently posted..The Fairy Queen

      • Zoe

        Good Choice Ali! Yes, Howl’s Castle would be an exciting place to make a home.

      • Zoe

        Hi Ms Yingling, no I didn’t know about the Dymaxion House, but I love the look of it – a space age yurt!

    9. Tammy Flanders

      You’ve sold me on this one! It does look fascinating. I’m sure I’ll work this into one of my presentations about curriculum resources.
      Thanks for the recommendation.
      Tammy
      Apples with Many Seeds

      • Zoe

        Hi Tammy, I know that here in the UK “homes/houses” is a common topic in infant school, and even though the text is more appropriate for fluent readers, I think the illustrations are such that all kids, even the youngest would get a real kick out of the book. I’ll certainly be recommending it to my kids’ school for their houses/home topic.

    10. Zoe

      That looks great Lisa! I believe you can visit a real version in Finland. Glad to hear you too enjoyed H.O.U.S.E. They have a new one out in Polish about art too – hope it gets translated!
      Zoe recently posted..Kidlit Radio #20

    11. Julia Marshall

      Hi Zoe

      That is a fantastic review, thank you. And a great site! Im from Gecko Press and we were lucky to be able to publish this book in English, translated from Polish. There is another one called Design which is also really great, about where ideas come from. Let me know if you would like a review copy!

      Julia Marshall

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    CommentLuv badge

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.