Cover image for When I was built
When I was built
Thermes, Jennifer.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt & Co., 2001.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
An old house describes the way of life of the family that built it many years ago, and that of the one living in it today.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.6 0.5 55967.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books
Newstead Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Collins Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
East Aurora Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Eden Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Grand Island Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Hamburg Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Lancaster Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Marilla Free Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



One humble house tells its own intriguing history.
"Today, big houses surround me, up"
"and down my street. When I was"
"built, the Fairchilds were the only"
"people around for miles and miles."
Standing strong and proud, a trusty old farmhouse reflects on its beginnings, remembering the Fairchild family who built it more than two hundred years ago and comparing what life was like then to the bustling world of the Gray family, its present dwellers.
With rich historical detail and warm affirmation of both past and present, "When I Was Built" celebrates continuity and change, as it conveys the welcoming spirit that makes a house a much-loved home.

Author Notes

Jennifer Thermes and her family live in a one-and-a-half-story home built around 1720, once owned by the poet Louis Untermeyer. A freelance illustrator and designer, Jennifer lives in Newtown, Connecticut. This is her first children's book.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-3, younger for reading aloud. Taking inspiration from her own eighteenth-century home, Thermes' first picture book features a house speaking in the first person. The house compares the activities of its current family, the Grays, with those of the Fairchilds, who built it more than 200 years earlier. The house compares indoor plumbing with carrying buckets of water from outside. The noise of household computers, telephones, and faxes is contrasted to the Fairchilds' quiet evenings by candlelight. Despite the hardships, in most of the comparisons the "olden days" are made to sound better. For example, a nostalgic view of the Fairchild family around the wooden-plank table contrasts with the Grays shopping in a supermarket framed by fast-food items. The handsome pen, ink, and watercolor art has a flavor that evokes an illustration style from the 1940s. Sometimes the voice of the house is a little clunky, as is the message--Was life really better in 1720? But this does give children an interesting view into the domestic past. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

It's not just the walls that talk in Thermes's first children's book it's the entire house. "I watch the world pass by," muses the narrator, an 18th-century dwelling that has survived to the present day, "and sometimes think about the way things were when I was first built." A series of comparisons follow in which the house points out the advantages of sanitation and central heating, while also waxing poetic about the simplicity and the quiet of bygone days. In one scene of the house's present-day owners, a harried and caffeine-fueled mother deals with a fax machine, portable phone, computer and answering machine while her children dance to a portable CD player; on the opposing page, a considerably calmer gentleman writes with a quill. On another spread, the text notes that nowadays electricity "light[s] up the night with noise and chatter," in direct contrast to the original owners, 300 years ago, gathered cozily around the hearth, "talking or reading or telling stories, their faces aglow in the flickering candles." Thermes's crisp ink line and austere draftsmanship lend her pictures an elegant airiness. An attractive palette of homey colors green, brick, gold imbues them with a sense of both history and domesticity. Ages 4-7. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-A charming, if not exactly original, idea in which a house is given a voice and persona to compare life in the days when it was built and the Fairchilds resided there to life today with the Gray family. The text progresses nicely in its comparisons, starting with the land and how empty it was, then showing the way the house was built and heated, compared with construction techniques today. The Fairchilds are pictured as a pioneer family, with the mother leaning over an open hearth to cook, spinning wool at a spinning wheel, and dressed in simple Colonial dress, although it's not clear when the house was built, other than to say it was "a long time ago." Contrasts are made in the way the two families obtain food, eat, cook, communicate, and travel, without any judgments made as to which is necessarily better. Childlike watercolors, imbued with a yellow or orange glow in many spreads, have lots of detail. Although lacking any real plot, this book is sure to appeal to the many children who wonder how things were "a long time ago" and who will be fascinated with both the differences and similarities.-Jane Marino, Scarsdale Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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