Starting over is something we all have done, from the time we were kids in some classroom and fouled up our first piece of paper, crumpled it into a ball and launched it to hit or miss the gray trash can in the corner. Sure, all the adults around us said to try and try again. Only those who fail greatly achieve greatly. Every failure is a lesson and lessons make us better. Adults and well meaning friends toss these aphorisms around until we feel bruised and exhausted at the thought of starting over. Those bruises and all that the well-meaning advice don't make the difficulties of starting over any easier. Even more so for the victims of the mortgage crisis, and the job crisis, halves of broken families struggling to carry on, somehow. We graduated from that elementary school trash can to a clip-on basketball net over the paper shredder bin, and our adult failures are too big to be hauled off in a bag of trash. Like a line out of one version of the proverbial going on a bear hunt, the way out is through, even though through can be very hard.
The House on Dirty-Third Street by Jo S. Kittinger is a kid's picture book about starting over. A little girl and her mother tackle renewing an old house, and renew their lives. The tale is short and simply told. Much of the impact is from the evocative and haunting art by Thomas Gonzalez. He draws a world that is both nostalgic and realistic, that lends depth and sweetness to Kittinger's story of hope.
Yes, the author mentions church, but the story is not so churchy that it needs to get tossed against the wall. This is the church of the community, and one can always pencil in ones own sanctuary of choice. This is the extended family of neighbors who open their arms, who ask each others names and remember them. And it's a reminder that friends are where you make them.
The House on Dirty-Third Street may be a kid's picture book, but it is much more. It is partly a mini-road map to survival, part guidebook, part homage to perseverance. It takes only a moment to read it, but if you have young kids, you'll find this one to read over and over, if not for the text, for the intent. I can see this book in high school guidance counselor offices, in therapy groups, anywhere survivors gather to find hope and inspiration.