Home – Isabelle Simler

Home by Isabelle Simler, Vineet Lal
Also by this author: A Perfect Spot, A Head Full of Birds, The Brothers Zzli
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on March 26, 2024
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
Buy on Amazon

A spectacular tour through the dwellings of twenty-seven different animals, from a hermit crab’s secondhand shell to a beaver’s lakeside dam to a comet moth’s silk cocoon.

Acclaimed creator Isabelle Simler presents a poetic journey through amazing animal homes across the world. In Europe, alpine marmots stay safe in underground refuges. In southeast Asia, Sumatran orangutans doze off in treetop bedrooms. In Mexico and the southwestern US, elf owls nest in holes in saguaro cacti. On every continent but Antarctica, honeybees mold wax into palaces for their queens. No matter where you travel, some creature is making an extraordinary place to call home.

With connections to life cycles, camouflage, and other biological concepts, Home is a spellbinding showcase of the wonders of the natural world. Enchanting poetry, fascinating back matter, and intricately detailed art invite young readers to be amazed by the creativity and diversity of our animal neighbors.

Home is the perfect example of using various media to make learning come to life. The art is absolutely stunning. Even with no text, only as a book of art, this would be a book worth publishing. Colorful, precise, and detailed, Isabelle Simler’s illustrations don’t just accompany or even complement the text, they are magnificent art in their own right. Each two-page panel vibrantly illustrates the home of some creature—from the stony villa of the common octopus to the cactus cabin of the elf owl.

Alongside each setting is a poem, told in first-person in the voice of the creature being portrayed. They tell the stories of their homes and their lives, adding poetry to the mix of how we learn. The poems are in free verse, not sing-song rhyme, giving it a depth and challenging young readers to learn to read it with a poetic feel.

Each poem is given a title that describes the home in poetic but accurate terms (“Lace Citadel”) and then names the creature (“of the cross orbweaver spider). And then to get really fancy, it follows with the scientific name of the creature (“Araneus diadematus”). It’s a blend of technical language, poetry, and visual art that allows readers to engage with the information in a variety of ways. And this not even to mention that the art of translation is also at work with Vineet Lal translating Home into English from its original French.

Home is a book about creatures and their dwellings, but my primary take away from it was a reminder that we learn through artistic expression. Simler takes readers on a poetic and visually stunning journey through the homes of 27 different creatures and—look, I have no real reason to read this book. It doesn’t matter to my life if I know what an alpine marmot barrow looks like. Even to write this review and do it justice doesn’t necessarily require me to read every word on every page, particularly knowing that I’m not the intended audience. But the poetry and the art enraptured me and captured me and drew me into the lived stories of these animals. And it turns out that knowing what an alpine marmot burrow looks like does enhance my life in some way because it reminds me of the beauty and glory of the natural world.

Home is a beautiful book. I think we could study it as a way of how we can use various mediums to teach. Or we could just appreciate it as art. Or we could learn about the artistry within the natural architecture it shows us. It’s a multi-faceted book that is engaging at many levels. And it’s worth reading.