#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes Stories Of The Dispossessed

Surviving Gentrification in a 2020 Picturebook for Children

... in Phoebe Wahl's "The Blue House."


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The Blue House [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Phoebe Wahl
Published by Tundra Books (2020)
ISBN: 1984893394 (ISBN13: 9781984893390) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

The first time I heard the term ‘gentrification’ was from a childhood friend of mine working as a paediatric nurse in San Francisco more than five years back. She has been telling me how most of the homes are being bought off and torn down and replaced by modern, tall buildings that cost quite a lot and generally cater to the Silicon Valley yuppie community who can afford the rental costs.

This conversation of ours went through my head as I read Phoebe Wahl’s recently published picturebook, The Blue House. The story has been compared several times with Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House (Amazon | Book Depository), and I could definitely see resonances with the art and bucolic vibe.

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However, I have to admit that I found this father-and-long-haired-son tandem living a quiet, simple existence to be more relatable – it definitely appealed more to my sensibilities. The rootedness has been established in the first part of the story with the little rituals and the plants and the quiet joy of togetherness spent in this blue house. It served to effectively make the moving out part especially gut-wrenching. Yet, rather than devolve into maudlin sentiments, this father-and-son duo expressed their frustration by shredding the guitar and dancing and stomping and raging together.

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I found the narrative to be such a powerful yet very subtle portrayal of what it means to feel hopeless against a system that demands the dispossession of a place you consider home in the name of progress and profit.

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Yet despite being uprooted and forced to relocate, there remains a sense of self-possession that was empowering and hopeful to me. There is an owning of the whole gamut of emotions: rage, grief, despair, loss – and the willingness to simply carry on, regardless. Definitely one of my most beautiful reads this year.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 44 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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