Surviving Gentrification in a 2020 Picturebook for Children


The Blue House [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Phoebe Wahl
Published by Tundra Books (2020)
ISBN: 1984893394 (ISBN13: 9781984893390) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

The first time I heard the term ‘gentrification’ was from a childhood friend of mine working as a paediatric nurse in San Francisco more than five years back. She has been telling me how most of the homes are being bought off and torn down and replaced by modern, tall buildings that cost quite a lot and generally cater to the Silicon Valley yuppie community who can afford the rental costs.

This conversation of ours went through my head as I read Phoebe Wahl’s recently published picturebook, The Blue House. The story has been compared several times with Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House (Amazon | Book Depository), and I could definitely see resonances with the art and bucolic vibe.


However, I have to admit that I found this father-and-long-haired-son tandem living a quiet, simple existence to be more relatable – it definitely appealed more to my sensibilities. The rootedness has been established in the first part of the story with the little rituals and the plants and the quiet joy of togetherness spent in this blue house. It served to effectively make the moving out part especially gut-wrenching. Yet, rather than devolve into maudlin sentiments, this father-and-son duo expressed their frustration by shredding the guitar and dancing and stomping and raging together.


I found the narrative to be such a powerful yet very subtle portrayal of what it means to feel hopeless against a system that demands the dispossession of a place you consider home in the name of progress and profit.


Yet despite being uprooted and forced to relocate, there remains a sense of self-possession that was empowering and hopeful to me. There is an owning of the whole gamut of emotions: rage, grief, despair, loss – and the willingness to simply carry on, regardless. Definitely one of my most beautiful reads this year.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 44 out of target 100

May 6, 2021 at 06:30AM Myra Garces-Bacsal