The Little House

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For the 1998 novel by Philippa Gregory, see The Little House (novel). For the 2010 British TV series, see The Little House (TV series). For the 2014 Japanese film, see The Little House (film).
The Little House
First edition
Author Virginia Lee Burton
Illustrator Virginia Lee Burton
Cover artist Virginia Lee Burton
Country United States
Genre Children's picture book
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
Media type Hardback
Pages 40
ISBN 0-395-18156-9
OCLC 1347325

The Little House is a 1942 book written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton.


Author Virginia Lee Burton has stated that "The Little House was based on our own little house which we moved from the street into "a field of daisies with apple trees growing around."[1] Burton denied it was a critique of urban sprawl, but instead wished to convey the passage of time to younger readers. Being a very visually driven book, many times Burton changed the amount of text to fit the illustration. "If the page is well drawn and finely designed, the child reader will acquire a sense of good design which will lead to an appreciation of beauty and the development of good taste. Primitive man thought in pictures, not in words, and this visual conception is far more fundamental than its sophisticated translation into verbal modes of thought."[2]


The story centers on a house built at the top of a small hill, far out in the country. Her builder decrees that she "may never be sold for gold or silver" but is built sturdy enough to one day see his great-great-grandchildren's great-great-grandchildren living in her. The house watches the seasons pass, and wonders about the lights of the city, which grow ever closer.

Eventually a road is built in front of the house. This is followed by roadside stands, gas stations, and more little houses. Next, the small houses are replaced by tenements and apartments. Streetcars, an elevated railroad, and a subway appear to surround the house. Finally, two gigantic skyscrapers are built—one on each side; now living in the city, the house is sad because she misses being on the small hill in the countryside and that her exterior looks shabby due to no one living in her and the city's environment thanks to urban sprawl and poor planning.

One day the great-great-granddaughter of the builder sees the house and remembers stories that her grandmother told about living in just such a house, albeit far out in the country. When the great-great-granddaughter discovers that it is the same house, she arranges to have her moved out of the city, to a hill in the country where she can once again watch the seasons pass and live happily ever after.


The book was also made into a 1952 animated short by the Walt Disney Company, directed by Wilfred Jackson and narrated by Sterling Holloway.[3] It has also been released as an audio book.[1] The apartments and skyscrapers from the Disney adaptation of "The Little House" make a cameo appearance in Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Critical reception[edit]

The book has been noted for its insights on urban sprawl. It won the 1943 Caldecott Medal.[4] It was identified as one of the top 100 best books for children by the National Education Association in 1999 and 2007 polls.[5][6] It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.[7]

See also[edit]

Preceded by
Make Way for Ducklings
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Many Moons


  1. ^ a b "Books by Virginia Lee Burton". Houghton Mifflin. 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  2. ^ Burton, Virginia Lee (1943-07-01). "Making Picture Books". Horn Book Magazine. 19 (4): 228–232. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  3. ^ "The Little House (1952)". 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  4. ^ Goss, Gail (2001-07-01). "The Little House Meets Urban Sprawl". American Library Association. Archived from the original on 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  5. ^ "100 Best Books for Children". 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2006-11-22. 
  6. ^ National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  7. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (2012-07-06). "Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results". School Library Journal "A Fuse #8 Production" blog. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 

External links[edit]