Thursday, August 22, 2013

Learning from Picture Books: Too Tall Houses

Since I’m inescapably drawn to writing picture books as well as middle grade novels, I decided I’d better start reading more of them and figuring out what makes them work.
Too Tall Houses

written and illustrated by Gianna Marino

published by Viking, 2012

From Amazon:

Good friends learn a small but important lesson.

Owl and Rabbit are good friends and live in two small houses next to each other. They are perfectly happy . . . until Rabbit's garden gets in the way of Owl's view. So Owl builds his house a little taller. Only that blocks the sun from Rabbit's vegetables. So Rabbit builds his house taller. And soon it's a house-building frenzy and the two now not-so-good friends have the two tallest houses in the world!

All it takes is a gust of wind to remind them that maybe living smaller and together is a much better way to remain friends.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

This book has a simple and easy to relate to concept that is so well-suited for 3- to 7-year-olds. It’s one of those ideas that makes you think “I wish I’d thought of that”, and it’s cleverly executed. Sound words like “plunk” and “creak” are used sparingly in an effective way.

The page breaks help to build the tension and suspense, allowing places where the reader can predict what might happen. I love the way the illustration layout shows the friendship between Rabbit and Owl using double page spreads at first and then single pages as they become competitive and angry at each other.
This is a great book as a model for a problem/solution type of structure and I’d love to have it on my bookshelf to study further.
My Thoughts as a Teacher:

I’d love to read this book to my kindergarten students and buy a copy for my classroom! It would be so easy for my students to relate to the competitiveness of Owl and Rabbit, and their the angry feelings and tantrums.
This would make a great read aloud to lead into discussions of cooperation, tolerance in friendship, and social problem-solving. It’s would also be useful for talking about story structure, since it has a well-defined problem and a solution at the end. Some questions might come up about why the Rabbit lives in house and not underground, and could lead to research about these animals.



  1. I don't write PB's but used them all the time in the classroom. This would be a great one to use if I were still teaching.

  2. Ah, a story of what one-upmanship leads to. It sounds really good. :)

  3. This sounds like a great book! I hadn't heard of it, so thanks for sharing.


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