Settling in with The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj and Simona Mulazzani (+ a giveaway!)

What we enjoy most about living in the woods is seeing our wild animal friends. You may remember my mentioning that we regularly feed the foxes, gently move land tortoises away from car danger, and always keep binoculars handy to help us identify new birds.

Any deer sighting is cause for celebration; when there are fawns we melt into puddles of adoration over the spots and white tails. Watching a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk zig and zag while learning to fly is both educational and amusing, and we love the haunting, ethereal hoots of owls late at night.

In The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj and Simona Mulazzani (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin YRG, 2019) we see how a variety of woodland creatures find shelter and build homes for their soon-to-arrive offspring. Many of the featured animals live in our back yard and woods, so we are familiar with the seasonal hubbub of activity described in this charming picture book.

Varsha frames her spare poetic text with a series of questions, first asking the reader, “Do you see the home builders?”

Two delightful double page spreads reveal a great horned owl dozing in a tree, beavers chilling at a pond, land tortoises ambling along a path, a fox peeking out through the grass, a mole busy tunneling underground, honeybees buzzing in a field, deer resting beneath a hill, and an eagle soaring overhead.

Do you see the home builders?

Deep on the trail,
Beneath the mound,
Down by the water,
Safe off the ground.

Under the earth,
Below the bridge,
In the tall grass,
High on the ridge.

Once we’ve spotted the animals, we’re ready to watch them work, as they “Burrow and hide,/Tunnel and creep,/Nibble and gnaw,/Explore and keep.” Whether they’re busy above or below ground, they’re all intent on preparing a safe and secure haven for their little ones, be it den, hive, bed, burrow, lodge or nest.

And then it’s time!

Do you see the babies?

Hatchlings go forth,
Fox cubs nuzzle,

Beaver kits swim,
Owlets huddle.

Mole pups slumber,
Bees swarm the air,

Timid fawns bond,
Wee eaglets stare.

Fuzzy, frisky, playful, perky. Such joy, and they’re absolutely adorable!

The book closes with a last look at the newly formed families all snug and cozy for the night, with a lovely reminder that “Home is our earth,/Shared by us all.”

Varsha and Simona have created an appealing gem for budding naturalists and animal lovers. Simona’s lush and enchanting mixed media illustrations (acrylic, colored pencil, collage), rendered primarily in a blue/green/brown palette, beautifully complement Varsha’s lyrical rhyming verse.

Young readers will enjoy following the featured animals from page to page, comparing the different homes and identifying additional creatures (butterflies, earthworms, snails, dragonflies, ants, fish). They can also take note of the different trees, grasses, and wildflowers in the pictures. I especially like the spread of the mole tunneling under a vegetable garden, since we’re able to see root veggies growing above and below the surface.

The Home Builders is a lovely invitation for everyone to be more observant and appreciative of the natural world. Lots of fascinating things occur during nesting season if we only take the time to pay attention. Learning about wild animals at an early age is a wonderful way to instill a sense of stewardship. As the book says, we all share the earth, both humans and animals. Fostering respect for all living things is the key to peaceful coexistence.

This spring I look forward to the return of migrating robins and having Carolina Wrens greet me at my office window. There will definitely be a flycatcher nest on our front porch and I’ll be on the lookout for land tortoises Boxcar, Boxwood and Box Lunch crossing our long driveway.

Fuzzy the Fox will retreat to her warm weather den to have her kits, and hopefully she’ll bring them to dinner this summer. You already know how partial we are to fawns, but I must admit baby raccoons are pretty cute too — they seem to think we won’t recognize them with their masks on. 😀

While I’m waiting I can reread The Home Builders, and continue to marvel at our industrious wildlife friends who live just outside the door. Soon it’ll be time to walk down to the pond to see the beavers. What kind of wildlife do you see where you live?



written by Varsha Bajaj
illustrated by Simona Mulazzani
published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin YRG, February 2019
Picture Book for ages 3-6, 32 pp.
*On shelves February 12, 2019

♥️ Check out this short Q&A with author Varsha Bajaj at the Blue Willow Bookshop website to read about what inspired her to write this book.



The publisher has generously offered a brand new copy of The Home Builders for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite woodland animal is no later than midnight EST,  Wednesday, February 13, 2019. You may also enter by sending an email with HOME BUILDERS in the subject line to: readermail (at) Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!


The lovely and talented Laura Purdie Salas is hosting the roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Scamper over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend!!


*Interior spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2019 Varsha Bajaj, illustrations © 2019 Simona Mulazzani, published by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin. All rights reserved.

**This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee. Thanks for your support!

*** Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

59 thoughts on “Settling in with The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj and Simona Mulazzani (+ a giveaway!)

  1. Jama, we love wildlife spotting, too! We always feel like we are witnessing a miracle. And I remember when we first moved out here, I was like, wow, this has been going on all this time, and I was missing it (by living in the suburbs)! This book is lovely and gentle… I like the color palette. I’ve always been drawn to woodland creatures, and we see a ton of deer, but these days it’s the nesting eagles that thrill me. Thank you! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are lucky to see so much from your home, Jama. I have to say that I see fewer animals though I am surrounded by trees. My favorites here have to be the birds, especially the robins who have a nest in direct site of my back door. We have, on occasion, city coyotes, and while always hard to believe they’re here, I do get a glimpse now & then in the evening! The book looks beautiful, just lovely for young readers! Thanks.

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    1. We’ve seen a few coyotes too — don’t like them because they scare the foxes away. We can always tell when the robins have returned from their winter vacations. The juveniles are pretty noisy in the spring.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wildlife spotting is my wheelhouse and passion! I love observing birds and all kinds of creaturs, and of course, writing about them too :).

    Thanks for alerting me to this beautiful title, Jama! I love Simona’s art–have been a fan of hers for awhile now. I would LOVE to win a copy of this book :).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You write about animals so beautifully, Maria. It comes from a true inner passion and a trained eye. Paying attention is so important. I wish more people would look up from their devices and appreciate what’s around them.


  4. While reading about the Home Builders, I keep thinking of Mary Oliver. I have learned to love nature even more keenly because of Oliver’s poetry. This book tickles me in the right places, the poem, the art and the subject matter all are delightful.
    You live by the woods? I hope one day I do get to move nearer to nature and away from the city.

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  5. I was so struck by this gorgeous cover when I first saw it, then read the illustrator’s name. Of course! I was lucky to have Simona illustrate one of my books (Rock-a-Bye Romp, also with Nancy Paulsen), and just love her rich colors and beautiful flora and fauna. The lovely text looks like a perfect pairing. Congratulations to Vasha and Simona. I can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, when I saw that Simona had illustrated this book, I remembered Rock-a-Bye Romp (beautiful pictures for that one too). Gentle, enchanging pictures . . .


  6. What an exquisite book! I can’t wait to place a copy in my school library. It’s a perfect book for all ages! My favorite woodland animal is the rabbit. ❤️📚❤️

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  7. What a beautiful book! I like owls, though I only hear them out back; I’ve only seen one once, from a distance. But the most familiar animals to me are the deer. A family of about 6 of them comes up from the little ravine and creek behind our house, mostly to eat crab apples. There’s one that sometimes comes right up to the window and stares in at me as I work on the computer! They keep me from planting tulips, but they hate daffodils and daisies, so there are a few things I can plant.

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    1. Daffodils are the only flowers we can have in our yard. I consider it a small sacrifice in exchange for deer sightings. You can always tell a harsh winter because when the deer are hungry enough, they’ll eat anything. I love hearing owls.


  8. I absolutely love this book! We used to live in the woods and saw all kinds of beautiful wildlife. We needed to downsize, and now we live in a development. We still see rabbits, squirrels, and an occasional hawk, but I miss being in the woods. Thank you for introducing us to this book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re just the opposite of you. Used to live in a development, then moved to the woods. Of course we’re flanked on either side by tract homes, so we consider ourselves lucky to see what we can see.


  9. oh what a lovely book and message. i don’t know that i could name a favorite as they are all special in their own way. the turtle, the bunny, the fawn, or the soaring bird – they all make me smile and want to breathe it all in.

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  10. What an enchanting book, and the poems and art complement each other so well! I love hearing about all the critters you have around your woods, it sounds like a cornucopia of critter treasures unfolding before your eyes. I loved the art/illustration at the top too, it reminds me of Toulouse Lautrec. We have a plethora of cotton tales, garter snakes, a variety of woodpeckers, sparrows. In spring and summer we have robins, goldfinch, hummingbirds-hope they come soon, thanks for all Jama!

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    1. You have a lot of great birds in your area. When we lived in tract housing we never saw woodpeckers — but now we get treated to pileated peckers now and again. They’re so big! I miss our birdfeeders; goldfinches were a favorite. Just too many squirrels!

      Thanks for noticing the blog header art. I remember when Mirette on the High Wire first came out and I saw Emily at a local booksigning. I see what you mean about the Lautrec influence.

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  11. Looks like a delightful book. We live in the woods, too, and have much the same animals, thank goodness. Though I’d be happier if the deer herd would not treat my gardens (such as they are) as a buffet. 🙂

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  12. Growing up in the country, watching nature was an everyday joy. In the forests, surrounding my childhood home, I watched deer nibble at my mother’s prized plants. As much as I loved seeing the deer, the woodland animal I love most is the pungent smelling, bushy-tailed. curious, red fox. When my mother and I discovered his home, we visited on occasion and brought him a raw egg to savor.

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  13. Each one of your posts bring such delight, Jama. This one with the amazing book on woodland animals is such a right fit for grandbaby who lives in an area of Virginia that is filled with these types of animals. These lines from you post are tweet ready: “The Home Builders is a lovely invitation for everyone to be more observant and appreciative of the natural world. Learning about wild animals at an early age is a wonderful way to instill a sense of stewardship. Fostering respect for all living things is the key to peaceful coexistence.” Off to tweet right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Carol. Yes, this book would be fabulous for your grandchild! Thanks for helping to spread the word about this book. 🙂


  14. What a delightful book, Jama. I do believe my Kindergarten poet-naturalists would adore this book. We spend lots of time on the trails traveling to and from our campus vernal pool, so I’d have to say my favorite woodland creatures are the wood frogs and yellow spotted salamanders who make their home there. It’s always a magical moment in the spring when they reappear. Many, many thanks for sharing this today!

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