The House That Wasn't There
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The House That Wasn't There, by National Book Award finalist, Elana K. Arnold (A Boy Called Bat), is a heartwarming, emotionally astute story about losing a parent, losing friends, and moving to a new city. It's also about gaining connection, finding renewal in family, and a magical occurance. A principal character's dad died when he was a baby. Teleportation and mysterious events concerning animals are themes. The main characters are presumably White, though there's diversity among teachers and classmates.
Beautiful story of friends and family
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What's the Story?
In THE HOUSE THAT WASN'T THERE explores themes of friendship, death, moving to a new city, and family. There's also a twist of magic in a Fantastic Mr. Fox kind of way. Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Alder lives with his mom in Los Angeles. When a new family moves in next door, promptly cutting down the beloved tree in front of their houses, Alder and his mom reject their neighbors' friendly advances. Meanwhile, Oak, the girl who has moved into that new house, wonders why Alder and his mom are so cold. As the kids adjust to a new school year and new friend groups, a mysterious event occurs outside of their houses. With the help of two cats and an opposum, Oak and Alder find a connection that they could never have imagined.
Is It Any Good?
This exquisitely rendered story proves that magic is all around us. In The House That Wasn't There, author Elana K. Arnold excels at capturing the nuances of the middle school mind. Her characters are observant and thoughtful, acting upon internal dialogues that will appeal to kids who might see facets of themselves in Oak or Alder. The bouts of self-consciousness, timid success, and longing for connection feel spot-on for this age group. There's a lot to be read between the lines.
In contrast to the easy flow of school and homelife that is crafted so fluidly for these neighborhood kids, the fantasy element feels slightly intrusive. But kids who long for proof of magic and coincidence will be especially pleased. This story successfully shows that uncontrollable circumstances aren't all bad -- sometimes the twists life throws our way can be magical and healing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about friendship in The House That Wasn't There. What influences affect friendships? How does social media play a role in your friendships?
Alder's dad died when he was very young, and sometimes he seems pretty down. When your friends are down, how do you help them?
When Oak moves to town, she feels like she doesn't have a choice in the matter. What happens in movies or shows when kids don't have choice in their lives? How do you react to uncontrollable circumstances?
- Author: Elana K. Arnold
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Walden Pond Press
- Publication date: March 30, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: March 30, 2021
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