Written and Illustrated by Leonard Kessler
Wonder Books, 1965
Mr. Pine lived on Vine Street in a little white house.
Recommended by: KatyBeth (Nevada)
Who is KatyBeth? I’m a stage manager, and in my spare time I like to knit socks!
How did you discover this book? My parents read it to me when I was a kid.
What do you like about it? I made my dad read this book to me every night when I was little, to the point that he can still recite it to this day! The purple house appealed to me (it’s my favorite color!), but I especially enjoyed the message about embracing individuality.
The plot in a nutshell: A man wants to make his house distinctive
Mr. Pine’s little white house is one of fifty identical houses in a line on Vine Street. In an effort to make his stand out, he plants a pine tree in his front yard, only to have all of his neighbors admire it and plant a pine tree in their own yard. The same thing happens when he tries to add a bush next to the tree. So he resolves to paint his house purple, so that it will not look just like the others. He buys paint and supplies and gets to work. A couple of boys playing baseball knock him off his ladder and he accidentally steps on his cat’s foot, both of which cause some issues. And he ends up with a purple house, a purple dog, a purple cat and a purple nose. His neighbors come to admire the house and decide to paint their own houses, but they each choose their own color. The book ends with houses in all colors on Vine Street, but Mr. Pine’s is the only purple house.
Author Leonard Kessler wrote and/or illustrated over 200 books, many of which were done in collaboration with his wife, Ethel. This one was published in the Wonder Books Easy Reader series, which features lots of small words for new readers. After spending years out of print, it was reissued for its 40th anniversary. Mr. Kessler named the paint store clerk after their friend, who also owned a paint store and, in a lovely statement about how much simpler the world was in 1965, included his own actual phone number on the side of Mr. Pine’s truck. (Can you imagine anyone doing that these days?)
The artwork is classic 1960’s, with simple black line drawings with occasional purple accents. The illustrations take me back to my elementary school classrooms, where so many Easy Readers had this same style of artwork. Of course, it really works with this story, in which purple plays so important a role in setting Mr. Pine apart from his neighbors. I love the message of individuality and the fact that he chooses to keep finding ways to stand out among his neighbors rather than letting their imitation upset him. This book was followed by two more stories about Mr. Pine.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that people can try to copy your style, but there are elements of you that are all yours…and no one can copy them.