Cover of Soft House by Jane Yolen

Soft House

Another complicated book history. I wrote this book about thirty years ago (the first time) when my own children were small and playing a game they called “Soft House” by taking cushions off the sofa and building a house with blankets for a roof.

I got a lot of encouragement from a number of editors, and even rewrote the book several times for a couple of them, but no one took it.

Then about ten years later, I sent it around again. Same thing–editors interested, I rewrote it a couple of times, book not taken.

Ten years later, as in an old recipe or song notation or doctor’s orders, “Repeat as needed.”

And then my friend and editor Liz Bicknell left Harcourt where we’d worked so successfully together, and she moved to Candlewick. She asked me to send her EVERYTHING that Harcourt didn’t want. Among those was SOFT HOUSE. Liz had small children and fell in love with the mss. and had me rewrite it several more times. Then she bought the book and handed it over to a junior editor, Yolanda LeRoy, who had me rewrite it some more. Suddenly Yolanda was let go and went back to Charlesbridge which was (at that point) a nonfiction house, and Liz took over the book once again.

She found Wendy Anderson Halperin to do the illustrations, an artist I had met previously at a conference and had so loved her art, I had tried (unsuccessfully) to write a book for her. So I was delighted that she was to work on this book of mine.

For the completists: though my children are named Heidi, Adam, and Jason, the children in the book are Alison Isabelle and Davey. Now for those who have been following the Biography portion of my journal, those names will sound familiar. Yup–those are Adam’s children. (Though Ali has dark hair, not blonde as in the book, and David has blonde hair, not red as in the book.)

What reviewers have said:

“Who better to illustrate a tale with this title than Halperin? Furthermore, Yolen tells it as sweet as summer rain, and as directly, in this beguiling package. . .” –Kirkus

“Yolen has an ear for what is both frustrating and fond in the older sister/younger brother relationship, moving the dynamic convincingly from tiff to truce. . . .This rainy-day read will give kids plenty of ideas for diverting indoor play, and it evokes a warm, comfy atmosphere perfect for dispelling the dreariness of a drizzly afternoon.” –Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Gentle rhythms give Yolen’s rainy-day tale the feel of a narrative poem. . . . The story provides an authentic portrayal of sibling dynamics ranging from pressure to gain one’s way to thoughtful and caring once the two make peace, and ultimately offers a visual and lyrical ode to the value of creative, collaborative play. “–Publisher’s Weekly

“This touching story and delightful illustrations show kids how to use their imaginations when dreadful boredom creeps in!”–Kids BookShelf

“Gentle, soft, warm and comforting language make this the perfect book for reading aloud at bedtime or in the cozy cocoon of a soft house of one’s own. Wendy Anderson Halperin’s detailed and heart-warming illustrations are perfectly matched with the illustrative text.”—Through the Looking Glass Book Review

“What a cute book! These siblings have the right idea of doing something else besides watching TV or playing video games.”—WKRC, Cincinatti, Entertainment

“Quietly transcendent moments are at the heart of many of Yolen’s picture books, and scenes of cozy domesticity are Halperin’s stock in trade. These inclinations dovetail in the writer and illustrator’s first joint project.”–Booklist

“This soothing book reaffirms the simple pleasures of childhood.”–Childhood Education

“A tender, brother-sister daily life story, told with simple grace and appropriately soft, cozy illustrations.”–Cynsations