This Is The House That Jack Built - Thao Lam
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This Is The House That Jack Built

This Is The House That Jack Built

This Is The House That Jack Built

I am looking for a book. I was a tiny tot than but I remember borrowing this book a dozen times from the library. It was about an animal architect who built home for other animals. The creativity in the design of each home was incredible; I spent hours absorbed in the detail and coming up with my own stories about the families of each dwelling. That is about all I remember. Does any of this sound familiar? Keep reading…

On my last trip to the library I scanned the shelves looking for this elusive book. I came up empty handed but I did find a book about another famous house. This Is The House That Jack Built is a favorite children’s rhyme that goes back centuries. It’s origin is unclear, some claim it’s a popular British nursery rhyme, some call it a traditional folk song, while other think it was derived from an ancient Hebrew chant in the 16th century. Simms Taback illustrates the version I borrowed from the library. This Is The House That Jack Built is a cumulative tale. In a cumulative tale an action or dialogue repeats and builds up as the story progresses. It takes a very skilled storyteller to maneuver through all the tongue twisting repetitions.

Simms Taback’s version of This Is The House That Jack Built has a distinctive creative flair and humor. Simms does a wonderful job in capturing all the absurdity of the rhyme. Using combination of collage, mixed media, and hand lettering text the technique and style creates a sense of over crowding which suit the theme of the rhyme. To add to the chaos Simms continues to cram more characters and text to the right hand side of the page every time a new character is introduce. This technique builds momentum as the rhyme progresses. The range of colours can also make a reader dizzy. Packed with abundant details and diversions you can get lost in the busy pages. My favorite page are the end pages with it’s variety of pencil drawn houses, each accompanied with real estate ad, giving readers the opportunity to do their own house hunting. The book is full of clever little details and tongue-in-cheek references that give this rhyme a fresh and modern twist. Some might go over the heads of little ones, but parents reading along would be entertained. This Is The House That Jack Built is great for multiple reads; you’re bound to discover something new each time.

This Is The House That Jack Built, a children’s book review by Thao Lam

Author and Illustrator Simms Taback

Simms Taback grew up in the Bronx and graduated from Cooper Union. He has worked as an art director and graphic designer for both CBS Records and The New York Times. Simms has also taught at the School of Visual Arts and Syracause University. He has illustrated many children’s books, including previously profiled on B is for Books: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

If it has been a while since you last touched base with Simms Taback, his website is worth a revisit


Publisher Putnam Juvenile; 1ST edition (August 5, 2002)

ISBN-10 0399234888

ISBN-13 978-0399234880