House of Crack

House that Crack Built coverThe House that Crack Built

I don’t get this one. It really is a poem/story about the house that crack built. I get that. What I don’t get is why you would read this to a child? Maybe it is for adults? Maybe I am to read it as a statement on the economic and social justice issues of the drug trade? ¬†All worthy reasons to buy this. I am just not sure I would put it in the kiddie section with the picture books. Regardless, the artwork is beyond wonderful, and I can see purchasing it for a public library on that alone.

Maybe this is a definite purchase, but where do we put it?


House that Crack Built back cover

baby with nothing to eat

This is the man

crack that numbs the pain


  1. It’s not really for primary children, more to make teens think. I read this as a teenager and thought it was excellent. Even though I knew getting involved with drugs was idiotic on grounds of your own health, I had never considered the wider implacations of the production of drugs. This book communicates that clearly and effectively.

  2. It looks like it might be a good way to start a discussion about drugs with younger kids. How young parents are going to want to have that conversation in your area may be the best indicator of where to shelve it.

  3. I remember this book (from elementary school, no less)! Guess it was considered relevant for the suburban 80s child?

    Is that a Matisse behind the drug lord?

  4. Did you mention this one in another post at some point? It looks familiar. Regardless, It’s a terrific book, but definately not a candidate for the children’s picture book section. Why would someone knowingly put it there in the first place? Maybe put this book on display in the teen area? If it doesn’t get check out, I would be willing to bet a lot of teens would stand there and read it while they’re at the library.

  5. This book is actually on the the California Recommended literature list for grades 9-12. This is what the description on the state site says “In cumulative verse written in the style of the nursery rhyme THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, the story of drug economics unfolds. This novel portrays the rough reality of urban poverty through text and illustrations. This selection depicts mature situations and substance abuse. This book addresses controversial issues of interest to many adolescents and includes scenes and language that reflect mature content. Before handing the text to a child, educators and parents should read the book and know the child.”

  6. It does say on the back cover that it’s a young adult book. They are also among the most reluctant readers…

  7. I noticed that sometimes the people who add the books don’t bother to look at the content. For instance, they put the Harry Dresden books in Young Adult simply because it’s about a wizard even though the books are writen for adults with an adult character. I’ve seen that Dr. Seuss book about being old in the children’s picture books simply because it’s Dr. Seuss. Graphic novels with graphic sex scenes in the kids’ graphic novels cause “Only kids read comic books.” And so on.

    Basically, I’m betting this was an issue of judging the book by it’s cover.

    1. Oh man, I’ve seen SO many Gaiman graphic novels in the kids’ section! Sandman is there even though it’s a horror comic with all kinds of gross violence, and so is Stardust even though like the third picture in the book is two people getting it on.

      1. Ug! Doesn’t that drive you crazy? It does me. What’s next? Miss Don’t Touch Me in the kid’s section? (That’s a graphic novel about a young woman in France who ends up working in a brothel while trying to solve her sister’s murder. Includes her beating up on guys who get off on that. Violence. A male transvestite who dresses like Josephine Baker. Drugs. And beheadings.)

        People need to actually take time to look at things before they put them in! Like I remember we had Far From The Maddening Crowd in the kid’s movies for years – apparently someone put it there because the cover image looked like people in a flying car not unlike Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Then there was that whole issue with the movie version of Animal Farm. Just cause it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s for kids!

        1. Right you are about the “Animal Farm” movie. When I was a child, my birthday parties often were group trips to the movies, and that unfortunately was one of them. I had nightmares for weeks! Not sure about my friends — maybe that’s something I can ask about one day.

  8. 5th grade and up, maybe. Great ironic use of a nursery rhyme to depict the far-reaching effects of social problems. Over the heads of very young kids. This one’s for Latawnya!

  9. Yes, as several have noted, just because a book has pictures doesn’t mean it’s aimed at little kids!

  10. If I’m not mistaken, weren’t part of the sales of this book donated to charity when this book was first published? That, and the artwork were compelling reasons to buy it at the time.

    This one’s prime for weeding these days, though.

  11. I hate the style of artwork in this book. It’s a style that was done to death in social/left wing type publications in the 80’s and 90’s and you can still find remnants of it in community centers and places like YMCA’s today. It’s a horribly negative style which to me portrays humans as nothing more than helpless victims and perpetuates the mindset of dependence. I hate to overanalyze stuff but in this case I can’t help it.

    1. Was going to make the same comment on the “wonderful” artwork. Just ugly. James Lileks has an hilarious site, and makes the same observation about late 1960s-early 1970s children’s book “art.” Designed for some “hip” adult who “knows where kids are at.”

  12. Maybe this would be useful in Toronto libraries, explaining to younger folk what the mayor has been up to. JK

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