Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: The House that Drac Built

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Title: The House That Drac Built
Author: Judy Sierra (website)
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand (website)
Publisher: Sandpiper
Year: 1998
ISBN: 978-0152018795
Format: Paperback, also available in Hardcover
Pages: 32
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader

Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 3.5/5

The House that Drac Built is a Halloween take on the cumulative nursery rhyme "This is the House that Jack Built".   A more common example of a cumulative nursery rhyme is There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly.  These tales start off simply but get progressively more complicated until they become a nice test of memory and in this case an impressive rhyming stream.

This is the house that Drac built.

This is the bat
That lived in the house that Drac built.

This is the cat
That bit the bat
That lived in the house that Drac built.


This is the coffin under the floor,
That fell on the monster whose bloodcurdling roar,
Startled the fearsome manticore,
That wrestled the werewolf,
That chased the cat,
That bit the bat,
That lived in the house that Drac built.

And so on.

Once all the monsters living in Drac's house have been described and their chaos listed, some trick-or-treating kids stop by and show that children are far more frightening to monsters than monsters are to children.  The kids soon have the monsters well in hand and things go back to their normal creepy state in the house that Drac built.

The rhyming text is clever, even if it is closely modelled on the original nursery rhyme.  The illustrations are well done too; the monsters look realistic enough to be believable without being very frightening.  And there's some nice foreshadowing (sometimes by a literal shadow) where you can see a hint of which creature is coming next on the page before it is introduced.

Boo pulled this randomly out of a library shelf one day and it amused him enough that we took it home.  Once we'd gotten into a rhythm reading it, he started loving it.  He seems quite fascinated by the pattern and will happily fill in the blanks when I pause for him.  In fact, I think he could recite the entire final verse from memory, except that he loses interest halfway through if I leave it entirely up to him.  He's not much for monologuing when we're not discussing ceiling fans or sunflowers.

I don't mind the book at all.  I find it quite fun to challenge myself to remember everything without looking.  I also must admit to being amused at my mother's dismay that I was reading something containing the words "Fiend of Bloodygore" to my two-year-old.  Happy Halloween, Mom!

Autism Spectrum Bonus:  Perfect for kids who are fond of Halloween and/or creepy monsters.  It's also perfect for working on memorizing lists and learning patterns.  Since there's so much repetition, you can also use it to try to prompt vocalizations by pausing before finishing lines once your child is familiar with it.

Bottom Line:
Nailed the concept of Halloween down,
With minimal aches in parental crowns,
And the bonus of Grandma's displeased frown,
All thanks to the toddler,
Who made us look,
And have fun with a book,
Named 'The House that Drac Built'.


The House that Drac Built on

The House that Drac Built on


  1. Hi,

    I've missed your posts and I hope that all is well. I assume you are
    doing other wonderful stuff. If for any reason you need to talk to another mom who's been through the early years, e-me.

  2. Great review. I'm going to look for this book next time I'm out. My kids love Halloween-ish themed books.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance! I have a question about your blog. HeatherVonsj(at)gmail(dot)com


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