I was delighted to have recently discovered Eileen Spinelli’s Where I Live (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007) while at a children’s literature conference a couple of weeks ago. While chatting with illustrator Matt Phelan at his signing table, he mentioned that he was only supposed to do 20 illustrations for this book geared for 7- to 10-year-olds. But he fell so deeply in love with the family in the story that he ended up illustrating nearly every spread. As I read this book with my daughters, I could see why Matt found the characters so endearing. We fell in love with them, too!
Told in free verse, Where I Live is the story of elementary-aged Diana. She adores her Grandpa Joe, her little sister Twink, her best friend Rose, astronomy, and the wren who has built a wreath on the front door of her home. Spinelli has infused the story with touching symbolism and Phelan’s pencil illustrations add even richer emotional expression.
This book has so many wonderful things going for it: caring parents who really see and know their daughter, strong connections to a grandparent, an adored and loving teacher to draw out Diana’s feelings through poetry, beautiful portrayal of sibling hierarchy, and a realistic and healthy mix of Diana’s feelings around her younger sibling and her mad-sad adjustment to a substantial life change (moving houses).
This quiet book starring a reflective, heart-strong character is an excellent choice for drawing out tender feelings and depicting a language of the heart. Highly recommended!