Written by Paula Scher
Illustrated by Stan Mack
Princeton Architectural Press 1973 and1/05/2016
32 pages Ages 3—8
“Living in harmony with your neighbors isn’t always easy, but it’s doubly difficult if you’re a bear in a New York City brownstone, trying to hibernate. Who can sleep through the Kangaroos’ tap dancing, or Miss Cat’s caterwauling? And Miss Cat has her own complaint: the cooking smells from the Pigs across the hall. Can the wise landlord, Mr. Owl, come up with a new arrangement that allows everyone to live in peace?” [inside jacket]
The time has arrived for the Bear family to hibernate. They have eaten a good meal, slipped on their pajamas, and snuggled into their beds for a long winter sleep. All is fine until . . .
The Bear family cannot sleep with all the caterwauling from their neighbor, Miss Cat. Mr. Bear runs up two flights and knocks on Mr. Owl’s door (he’s the put-upon landlord). Mr. Owl understands the Bear family must hibernate, so he shuffles his five tenants around, hoping to solve the problems.
As they move, a traffic jam occurs on the center staircase of this three-floor walk-up. Now on the second floor across from the Pigs, the Bears once again slip into bed. But then . . .
Mr. Bear wakes from the noise above him (tap dancing Kangaroos), and Miss Cat does not like the hallway smell wafting into her apartment (the Pigs are cooking). Once more, MR. Owl reassigns apartments, tenants move, the building quiets, and the Bear family sleeps. But wait . . .
The Brownstone is a hilarious take on neighbors learning to co-exist in close quarters. Each tenant wants to live his or her life without interference. But with six groups of tenants, each with particular wants, needs, or fears, finding utopia becomes a dream—just not for the Bears—despite Mr. Owl’s careful considerations. The Mice, with their bare cupboards, fear Miss Cat. “We can’t live across from Miss C-c-cat!” Others want to sing, dance, or eat. Mr. Owl only wants peace and quiet.
Originally published in 1973, the reissue arrives with perfect timing. Not only is this a hilarious tale about a diverse brownstone, it is a story about getting along in a diverse society (or a children and their bedroom). Together, Scher and Mack created a picture book that stood the test of time. The Brownstone is as relevant now as it was in 1973, maybe more so.
The world gets smaller with each passing year, and with it, we need to reassess shrinking personal space from common space. The rule has been, “you have rights . . . until they collide with mine.” Handling converging rights is not an easy concept for kids to understand. Mr. Owl patiently tries to make the right decisions, trying to please everyone. That he finally succeeds is a testament to persistence, patience, and conflict resolution. The Brownstone uses friendly animals and gentle humor without becoming didactic.
Kids will find The Brownstone’s situations funny. The Mice fear Miss Cat will eat them. Miss Cat wants to warble all night. The Kangaroos want to tap dance all night. The Pigs want to eat a grand dinner. The hibernating Bears want to sleep. And Mr. Owl wants peace and quiet. The illustrations add to that fun, as the tenants move their belongings up and down the narrow staircase. The patient Mr. Owl handles the comical situations well, while trying to match personalities.
The Brownstone is perfect for story hour. The situations, the various personalities, and the illustrations give a parent, teacher, or librarian much to discuss. On the lighter side, The Brownstone’s brightly colored illustrations add an additional level of humor, especially when the tenants change apartments or complain to Mr. Owl. Emotions flow from their faces and body language. The cross-section view of the brownstone brings kids into the expressive animals’ homes and activities.
THE BROWNSTONE. Text copyright © 1973/2016 by Paula Scher. Illustrations copyright © 1973/2016 by Stan Mack. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, NY.
Find The Brownstone on Goodreads HERE.
Paula Scher: http://adcglobal.org/hall-of-fame/paula-scher/
Follow on Twitter @paula_scher
View her TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/paula_scher_gets_serious?language=en
THE BROWNSTONE. Illustrations © 1973/2016 by Stan Mack. Used by permission of Princeton Architectural Press.
Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
Full Disclosure: The Brownstone by Paula Scher & Stan Mack, and received from Princeton Architectural Press, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”