Literature Review: One House for All

 Līga Horgana is back with a literature review of One House For All by Inese Zandere, illustrated by Juris Petraškevičs and translated into English by Sabīne Ozola.

Growing up and starting adult life comes with new responsibilities and a change of lifestyle, but what can be done to stay close with friends who have completely different life paths, needs and abilities? One House for All, written by well-known Latvian children’s author Inese Zandere and illustrated by artist Juris Petraškevičs, is a laconic, less than 500 word tale about three best friends who face this situation.

Once upon a time, three good friends – Raven, Crayfish, and Horse – came together under a tall tree in a green meadow on the bank of a river. All three were now grown-up and wanted to get married, but they also wanted to remain close. So the three friends decided to build a big new house where they, their wives, and their children could all live together. (Zandere & Petraškevičs, 2017)

It becomes clear that planning their new accommodation will be a bigger challenge than it seems at first for three such different characters. By understanding their own personalities and needs and accepting their differences, the friends conclude that there is no solution for this problem without making compromises. I believe that this simple book written for children will also touch parents’ hearts by reminding them that adult life starts with valuing relationships with other people over ones’ selfish interests, and understanding that a compromise is often the best and most pleasant solution.

On each page, short passages of texts are placed among the big colorful illustrations by Petraškevičs, the head of the Faculty of Visual Arts of Art Academy of Latvia as well as a book illustrator and animation film artist. His visual interpretation of the story brings the reader far from the eyes of others into a forest along a fantastic and calm river bank. A few illustrations from this book are possible to view for free on the artists’ personal blog

The book has been translated into English by Sabīne Ozola, adapted by Lawrence Schimel, and published by Book Island in 2017. It is interesting to mention that in the original Latvian, the main characters are named zviedru zirgs, vācu vēzis and krievu krauklis (Swedish horse, German crayfish and Russian raven) which aside from the alliterated names, are illustrated wearing clothing associated with those respective cultures, immediately raising associations with the historical political situation in Latvia. The reader is left to guess whether this is one more tool the author has used to emphasize the differences between the members of one society. Those who can read in Latvian might be interested in a book review by writer Inga Žolude where she points out other interesting aspects of this work such as its very patriarchal and traditional values.

Personally, I would not overthink and analyze this tale so deeply, but instead think of it as a fairytale about the natural order of life – about coming of age, moving on from disagreements, and transforming into a more empathetic, caring and wise person. And just like any other fairytale, it can speak not only to very young readers, but also those who have a rich reading experience.
  • Zandere, I., & Petraškevičs Juris. (2017). One house for all. (S. Ozola, Trans., L. Schimel, Ed.). Book Island. 
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