The Hello Goodbye Window


Written by Norton Juster, Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Michael di Capua Books, 2005

Awards:  Caldecott Medal (2006)

Nanna and Poppy live in a big house in the middle of town.  There’s a brick path that goes to the back porch, but before you get there you pass right by the kitchen window.

Previously Reviewed Books from this Author:  The Odious Ogre

This story is told from the point of view of a little girl visiting her grandparents (Nanna and Poppy).  The window of the title is located in their kitchen and there are a number of family traditions that revolve around the window, all of which are detailed by our narrator.  Through her descriptions, we see a family dynamic that is fun and loving and we get to see her grandparents the way that she sees them.

I see you in there!

I see you in there!

Author Norton Juster (best known for The Phantom Tollbooth) does a perfect job capturing the voice and observational style of a child.  There’s a point in the book where the narrator says she takes a nap and nothing happens until she gets up.  It’s so typical of children to imagine that the world stops when they are not actively involved in it.  Even further underscoring the essence of childhood are Chris Raschka’s water color illustrations, which are drawn in a way that seems to emulate the way a child would draw them.  There are big swirls and loops in the drawings and splotches of color here and there.  They feel abstract, but with definition to show exactly what our narrator is focusing on.  It’s not surprising that this book took home the Caldecott Medal for its year.

I enjoyed the book, but it failed to resonate strongly with me simply because the experience of ‘going to Grandma’s’ is one of those slices of life that I have never been able to experience.  I had a maternal grandmother and a paternal grandfather, but they both lived with us during the time I knew them, so there was never a grandparents’ house to visit.  I imagine that this book would be particularly nostalgic and sweet for those with warm memories of their grandparents’ homes and the traditions that were part of visiting them.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that the simplest of things, when shared with someone we love, can become monumental.


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