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Five Favorite Fictional Houses from Children's Literature

Posted by Jen Robinson on October 19, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Recommendations
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Lots of people responded positively to my recent post about favorite fictional towns from children's literature. A number of people commented and Twittered to share their favorites. Carol Rasco (from RIF) mentioned Misselthwaite Manor from The Secret Garden. And I thought "great suggestion, that's one of my favorite houses from children's literature." And that, naturally enough, led me to thinking about my other favorite fictional houses. In the interest of fairness (or at least of not being overly repetitive), I've excluded any authors who I previous mentioned in my favorite fictional towns or favorite fictional rooms posts. And yes, that excludes Hogwarts, because I've already mentioned Hogsmeade, and Green Gables, because I've already mentioned Avonlea, and the many great houses created by Elizabeth Enright and Zilpha Keatley Snyder. There are still lots of wonderful houses to choose from. In each case, I've decided to let the author describe the house in question. After all, they can do this far better than I could.

Secret Garden.jpg1. Misselthwaite Manor from The Secret Garden (with thanks to Carol Rasco) by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

"Not but that it's a grand big place in a gloomy way, and Mr. Craven's proud of it in his way--and that gloomy enough, too. The house is six hundred years old and it's on the edge of the moor, and there's near a hundred rooms in it, though most of them's shut up and locked. And there's pictures and fine old furniture and things that's been there for ages, and there's a big park round it and gardens and tree with branches trailing to the ground--some of them." (Chapter 2, Mistress Mary Quite Contrary, description by Mrs. Medlock)

2. The Hall family's house in Concord, MA from Jane Langton's The Diamond in the Window (reviewed here).

"All of the other houses on the street were neat square white buildings with dark shutters and simple pitched roofs. Out from among them mushroomed the Halls' house like an exotic tropical plant in a field of New England daisies. It was a great wooden Gothic Byzantine structure, truly in need of painting. Big as it was, it looked airy and light, as though the wind might pick it up and carry it away. Screened porches ballooned and billowed out of it all around, and domes and towers puffer up at the top as though they were filled with air." (Chapter Two, The Hidden Chamber)

Hobbit.jpg3. Bag End, Bilbo's house (later Frodo's house) from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.

"It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats -- the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill -- The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it -- and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another." (Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party, The Hobbit)

LionWitchWardrobe.jpg4. The Professor's house from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.

"It was the sort of house that you never seem to come to the end of, and it was full of unexpected places. The first few doors they tried led only into spare bedrooms, as everyone had expected that they would; but soon they came to a very long room full of pictures and there they found a suit of armor; and after that was a room all hung with green, with a harp in one corner; and then came three steps down and five steps up, and then a kind of little upstairs hall and a door that led out onto a balcony, and then a whole series of rooms that led into each other and were lined with books--most of them very old books and some bigger than a Bible in a church." (Chapter One, Lucy Looks Into a Wardrobe)

LittleHouseBigWoods.jpg5. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. (This house is technically not fictional, but since the series is generally shelved as fiction, I'm going to allow it.)

"Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.

The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around the house, and beyond them were other trees and beyond them were more trees. As far as a man could go to the north in a day, or a week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods. There were no houses. There were no roads. There were no people. There were only trees and the wild animals who had their homes among them." (Page 1-2)

I think it's telling that all five of the passages quoted above are from the first chapter or two. These houses play a central part in the books in question. In thinking about these houses (and the ones from my other posts), it's clear that my favorite fictional houses fall into two basic categories: big houses with lots of corridors and cupolas and hidden surprises, and homes that evoke a cozy, safe feeling. How about you? What do you look for in a favorite fictional house? Do you crave turrets and long passageways to explore? Or do you care more about finding a cozy nest?


Judith writes...

Thackers from Alison Uttley's "A Traveller in Time" is my all-time favourite fictional house, although I also have to make special mention of Misrule, the home of the Seven Little Australians, which gives its name to my blog!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for taking time to comment, Judith. I must confess that I'm not familiar with Thackers or Misrule (except that I know of the latter at the name of your blog, of course). So many great houses still to get to know!

Sarah N. writes...

The boxcar from The Boxcar Children. I remember longing to find a boxcar in the woods when I was around 7 or 8. Oh the things I could have done with it :)

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Oh yes, Sarah. I loved that boxcar, too. So much so that I've hesitated to re-read the book as an adult, because I don't want anything to taint my memories of it.

Nate Eagle writes...

I'll second the Boxcar Children, and more than just the first book with the boxcar in the woods. The whole series was based around the four Alden children making homes of lighthouses, house boats, tropical islands, cabins in the woods, ranches, and anywhere else you might have ever dreamed of setting up house.

I only discovered the Boxcar Children in fourth grade, when it way way below my reading level, but I devoured the whole series, often two a night, because their fantasies were so intensely pleasurable.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for stopping by to comment, Nate. It's funny - only the original boxcar sticks strongly in my mind. I think that by reading them when you were a bit older, you were maybe able to hold on to the later books better. But what you describe reminds me of my beloved Maida books (about a group of kids who also live in a variety of places, including a lighthouse and a houseboat - perhaps they were precursors to the Boxcar Children, in a way).

Lucy Gray writes...

The cottage in Julie Andrew Edward's Mandy. She's better known her movies clearly, and perhaps for the Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, but I absolutely loved this book as a kid.

I'd also add Green Gables from Anne of Green Gables to this list!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

You know, I don't think I've read Mandy, Lucy. I'll have to remedy that one of these days. As for Green Gables, that would have been on my list, but I'd already included Avonlea as a favorite town, and was trying to spread the wealth a bit. Thanks for visiting!

Keith writes...

Pippi Longstocking's house! That whole image of a horse on the porch still stays with me.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

I also liked the cave that Pippi lived in on her South Sea island, Keith. But yes, the horse on the porch was marvelous. And pancakes!!

Steven (Book Dads) writes...

My favorite house is the home of the Weasleys in the Harry Potter books and films. It is called "The Burrow" and Harry Potter once said, "This is the best house I've ever been in."

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

I thought of The Burrow, too, Steven. The only reason I didn't include it was that I had already talked about Hogsmeade, and (as previously mentioned), I was trying to spread my attention across authors. But I adore the Burrow!

Anisa writes...

I always loved the house from Bear at Home
by Stella Blackstone. All the color and patterns made it look so inviting.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for visiting, Anisa. I must confess that I don't know Bear at Home. Another house to look forward to visiting one day!

Nate Eagle writes...

Oh, my other favorite house is Miss Honey's cottage in Roald Dahl's Matilda. The poignant way its intense privacy and poetic beauty is presented with poverty made me just ache with the thought of the place. It presented having a self-determined place as something that came with a cost, and the love I had for Miss Honey as someone who would make--who would INSIST--on that choice for herself has remained with me in the many years since.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

I love book and movie versions of Miss Honey's cottage, Nate. Especially the book version. I completely agree with your assessment.

Mary Hope writes...

I also love Green Gables and the March family's home in Little Women.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Oh yes, Mary. I forgot about the March family's house. And Laurie's house next door, too. Both special, in very different ways.

Heidi writes...

How could you NOT include The "Four Story Mistake" from Elizabeth Enright's The Melendy Family or any of the houses from "Gone-Away Lake"? I also always wanted to find the house that was the setting for "Go to the Room of the Eyes" which is set here in Seattle on Capital Hill.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Heidi, those are among my favorite houses. But I had already mentioned them in prior posts (The Four-Story Mistake as a favorite room, and Gone-Away as a favorite town). In the interest of covering more ground, I decided not to repeat any authors in this post, even though Elizabeth Enright certainly penned many of my favorite homes. I also love Villa Caprice in Return to Gone-Away. And yes, I like the house in Go To The Room of the Eyes, though on re-reading that a few years ago, I didn't think that the book held up as well on the whole as some others discussed here.

Terry Doherty writes...

I know I'm probably stretching the "house" a bit, and it's not quite a fictional place, but thanks to The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I wanted to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Like you, I love the idea of exploring houses with revolving bookcases, secret stairways, and tunnels that lead to the edge of town!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Oh, Terry, I felt the same way about the museum (no surprise there!). And yes, anything with revolving bookcases, secret stairways, and tunnels was worth reading about. One day, I want to have a secret room in my real house. I've never outgrown that!

Mary Lee writes...

I love this post and the idea of gathering other "favorite" aspects of children's literature!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks, Mary Lee! I welcome suggestions for other "favorite" aspects to consider. Thinking about childhood favorites is clearly a hit in general.

Erin writes...

So many wonderful houses in children's literature. A few of my favourites:
-Green Gables of course
-The Four-Story Mistake (love the "tower")
-Betsy's house in the Betsy-Tacy high school books (so cozy, and I love how the crowd always gathers around the piano after school to sing songs and eat Anna's delicious treats)
-The wonderful apartment building with the magical elevator in Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd (okay, mostly I love the time-travelling aspect of it)
-Mandy's cottage! Thanks for reminding me, Lucy Gray
-The Burrow, absolutely. Those garden gnomes are priceless.
-The hallway connecting the row houses in The Magician's Nephew. Love, love, love!
-The sod house in On the Banks of Plum Creek
-The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton

Wow, once you get me started, there's just no stopping me!!!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for sharing so many favorites, Erin! I must admit that I haven't read the Betsy-Tacy books, though I am thinking about it (so many books to choose from!). Your comments just move them a little closer to the top of the list. And oh yes, the hallway connecting the row houses. I loved that, too. And the sod house. And the Little House. So hard to balance reading new books with wanting to re-visit these old favorites.

Terry Doherty writes...

Phew! I thought I was the last person to read the Betsy-Tacy books. Now I don't feel so bad.

Deck writes...

The Elemental House from "Spellspam", the second book in Alma Alexander's Worldweavers series - the house that Nikola Tesla created...

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that one, Deck. But I can imagine that house that Nikola Tesla created is pretty cool.

Deb writes...

Hi Jen,
I feel like a school kid waving my arm. "Pick me! Pick me!" I visited Astrid Lingren's World in Vimmerby, Sweden years ago. Can't you just see me arriving early, scurrying through the village, which consists of kid-size houses of all the characters. I stood on Pippi's porch, saw where the Children of Noisy Village congregated... Book to book, house to house, ahead of the crowd so I could run up stairs, peer out windows, and poor Karl down below snapping away (pre-digital or I'd send you some right now!) at his favorite children's author. No, wait. I wasn't published back then. What a life. Thanks for helping me relive that visit. I so appreciate all you do...

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

That sounds like an amazing experience, Deb. I would love to visit Astrid Lindgren's World someday, and stand on Pippi's porch. When I was in second grade I was Annika in our class play, to my friend Holly's Pippi. I've never forgotten the experience.

Wendy writes...

Remember the stable-turned-house/library in Madeleine L'Engle's Austin books (where Vicky's grandfather lived)? It isn't kidlit, but I'm very fond of the first dorm room in Pamela Dean's TAM LIN. And there's Katie John's house in Missouri with the speaking tubes.

Jen and Tricia, I KNEW I should have brought a Betsy-Tacy book to add to the raffle at kidlitcon...

Heidi, if you read this--I've seen the Go to the Room of the Eyes house; my sister also lives on Capitol Hill and I think she knows exactly where it is (I can't quite remember). Email me.

Jen, how about "schools I would love to have attended in children's literature"?

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Oh, yes, Wendy. I loved the grandfather's house in the Austin books. I forgot about that one. I haven't read Tam Lin, and my memories of Katie John's house are lamentably vague.

And yes, favorite schools are a good idea. I actually think I did something on that a couple of years ago, but I can't seem to find the post right now. Might be worth giving that one a fresh start. Thanks for the suggestion!

paula writes...

Not exactly a house, but I always loved Sam's stump in My Side of the Mountain. After he figured out the ventilation, of course.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

I'm pretty sure that I read My Side of the Mountain, Paula, but I'm afraid that the details are lost in my memory. I don't remember the stump. But it sounds interesting...

Jennifer writes...

Dear Jen,

Great post and discussion. How about Pooh's house? The house at Pooh Corner. I always wanted to live there when I was a child-- maybe even as an adult. Who wouldn't want to go on adventures with Tigger, Eeyore and the gang?

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks, Jennifer. And yes, of course, Pooh's house is wonderful! And I agree with you about the continuing appeal of the characters. There's a reason why the line for the Pooh ride at Disney World is always enormous.

Heidi writes...

Not just because it's my namesake, but because it's truly wonderful, I love the Grandfather's hut on the mountain from HEIDI. It's both cozy (inside) and expansive (outside). And the loft with the bed made of hay and the view of the stars gets my vote for favorite room.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Heidi, I think that you've made me want to re-read Heidi. I read it many times as a child. The loft is definitely the best room in the house. I liked their winter house, too. Thanks for the reminder!

RascofromRIF writes...

My daughter loved that you chose The Secret Garden's Misselthwaite Manor. That book was a such a favorite of hers growing up and then we got to see the play on Broadway and stood outside the stage door for a long, long time so an autograph could be obtained from the young girl. A special experience! I loved the mention in the commments about the loft in personal all time favorite book along with Little Women! These "favorites" are such fun, thanks, Jen!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for helping to inspire this one, Carol, by talking about Misselthwaite Manor in the first place. I really am thinking about re-reading Heidi, though I'm not sure if it would be the same (or if I even have a copy anymore .... don't think so, I think my copy was one of the books that was lost from my childhood). Anyway, glad that you're enjoying the series. Thanks for making it feel so worthwhile. I think we're due to talk about schools one of these weeks.

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