Clancy & Milly and the very fine house

Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood
Little Hare Books: 2009
ISBN: 9781921541902 (pbk)
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Clancy has moved. The new house is too big and there are lots of boxes. But there is Milly next door who wants to play with those boxes.

This classic picture book treats unsettling feelings about moving house seriously but with a strong and positive message that people will make your house a home. There is no attempt to downplay Clancy’s opinion that the new house is too big. Through the images especially we can only agree that Clancy has a point. But as Clancy starts to play with Milly and the mountains of boxes turn into mountains of fun the concept of too big takes on a new and less worrying meaning.

Freya Blackwood’s illustrations are consistently drawn from a child’s perspective; they capture the feeling of being small in stature but big in imagination perfectly. The vacuous rooms of the new house and the towering boxes in the yard are at times surreal and help to convey the unsettling emotions involved in moving and the difficulties of trying to grapple with unfamiliar and different places. The way in which the images turn from unsettling and surreal to fun and adventurous mirror and extend the text’s transformation of negative into positive feelings.

Clare’s Goodbye

Libby Gleeson (author) Anna Pignataro (illustrator)
Little Hare Books: 2017
ISBN: 9781760127527 (HbK)
AGE: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Three children, Rosie, Jacob and Clare, are saying goodbye to their home. Rosie and Jacob lead the way, saying goodbye and watching the move happen but then they can’t find Clare. They wander through the empty house and find Clare saying goodbye in her own unique way.

This contemplative book about moving encourages readers to consider the different ways in which we all deal with loss and is therefore a great conversation starter for parent and child teams who are finding a move challenging. Clare’s own unique way of saying goodbye is peaceful and brings everyone together, so provides the gentle and positive resolution parents may desire. There is a focus in the artwork on the outside and especially flowers, which gives this book a very child-focused feel and creates a feeling of openness too. There are also more chaotic images of moving and a great use of light and dark that help convey the text’s sensitivity to both the sadness and joy that saying goodbye can involve.  

Little Home bird

Jo Empson
Child’s Play: Swindon, 2016
ISBN: 9781846438905
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Little Bird loves home—he loves his favourite branch, his favourite food, favourite music and view. But winter is on its way and Little Bird’s brother explains that they must fly south. Little Bird decides to take his favourite things with him, but it’s a long journey south and perhaps he won’t need these favourite things anyway.

Little Home Bird is a delightful tale about moving that concentrates on that natural reticence we all feel about changing routines and finding new favourite things. It is light-hearted and reassures young readers that they’ll find new things to love about their new home, however much they might love the one they’re in.

Jo Empson’s artworks are full of colour and movement, giving Little Bird’s journey south a wonderful sense of adventure and even a dash of danger at times. They also provide some gentle laughs, perfect for breaking the tension when reading about a potentially troubling subject.


Michael Rosen (author) and Sophy Williams (illustrator)
Viking Penguin: 1993
ISBN: 9780140548952
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Note: out of print but widely available in libraries. Second-hand copies also come up for sale.

A cat describes its independent life as part of a family: ‘They have me to tickle. I have their laps. Other times I am nowhere and everywhere.’ Then it describes moving day—boxes, a cage, capture! The cat disappears and relishes in the worry it causes its family until a trick brings it springing out of its hiding place. The cat returns to its routine and describes its independent life within the family once again: ‘They have me to tickle. I have their laps. But remember this: other times I will be nowhere and everywhere.’

This unique story from award winning children’s author and poet Michael Rosen explores the traumatic nature of moving from a cat’s perspective. A little boy ‘owner’ takes, however, a key role in the story through the illustrations—he is the one who captures the cat, is needing comfort from a parent when the cat hides, entices it out, and cuddles it at the end. For cat-loving children, this story may help explore some of the challenges everyone faces —furry or not—when moving to a new location and also give that little bit of distance needed to confront fraught emotions.

The Dress-up box

Patrick Guest (author) and Nathaniel Eckstrom (illustrator)
Little Hare Hardie Grant: 2018
ISBN: 9781760124922
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

The Frolleys have to move away from their fabulous house with its frog pond, bird bath and their best friends the Choong family next door. They have to move away to a house with dripping taps, stinky carpet and ants!  At least there’s one box coming with the Frolleys that will help them feel at home.

The Dress-up Box provides a unique perspective on moving and a reassuring message that the most important things stay the same. By focusing on imaginative play, which is often a family and friends activity, Patrick Guest subtly reminds his audience that home is about the people we love not about the place and more to the point (or more to the child’s point) about the fun we have playing with the people we love.

The muted colours in the artwork for the Dress-up Box give it that hazy summer day feel, capturing a sense of endless time playing. The kids are often dwarfed by large houses and expansive gardens, giving a sense of exciting adventurous play too. The dress-up box itself contains some laughs with fantastic yet everyday costumes that might well inspire some new imaginative play at home.

The Red Boat

Hannah Cumming
Child’s Play, 2012
ISBN: 9781846434815
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Posy has moved with her dog George to a new house. She doesn’t like it; the people next door look strange, she worries about making friends at her new school, and can’t sleep at night. But when Posy and George find a red boat to play in and that red boat takes them to all kinds of strange fun places, Posy is able to face her fears, with a little friendly push and a ‘Woof’ from George.

The Red Boat engages with the capacity of children to use play and imagination to process fears in order to discuss moving. It focuses on the period immediately after moving and especially challenging social situations. The tone is light, positive and reassuring—new people are friendly if you give them a chance. There is also a subtle practical hint about stepping forward and saying ‘hello’, which gives parents a way to discuss how their own child might adapt to new surroundings and people. The illustrations match the positive tone, but the subtle efforts to convey fear and concern are clear and useful for discussing challenges.