A Chilling Chain: The House That Crack Built

Saturday, July 21, 2007.

The House That Crack BuiltAuthor: Clark Taylor
Illustrator: Jan Thompson Dicks
Published: 1992 Chronicle Books (on JOMB)
ISBN: 0811801233

Chapters.ca Amazon.com

Dark and disturbing yet surprisingly digestible, this thought-provoking twist on the classic rhyme is an arresting introduction to drug-induced despair — and a call to choose to act to end it.

8 Comments »

Comment by Ashley

November 13, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

This episode struck me because I was caught off guard by a children’s book about crack! I know that children’s books can deal with big issues, and drugs is certainly an issue that (unfortunately) affects many children, therefore a book about such a topic is revolutionary and ingenious. I definitely want to secure a copy of this book for my classroom because many of my students’ lives have been affected by drugs because of parents’ poor decisions. Having this book in my class may help them to realize that their experience is far from rare, and sharing their pain can help them cope. Many of my students, also, are slowly becoming involved with drugs; some have begun selling, while others have begun using drugs already. The book may help those students who are personally involved with drugs to make better decisions because the book shows the negative affects of drugs on communities and individual lives. If nothing else, it may deter students whose lives have yet to be directly affected by drugs from becoming involved with them. I am excited to find a book like this!

Comment by Alison

December 2, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

I would be interested to hear how you would structure a conversation with children around this text. I think this book creates an amazing space to tackle difficult topics that some children experience way too early. When it comes to children’s books that take on serious topics I often find myself in discussions about readiness. As an urban teacher my take is that kids are ready for what they live everyday. Unfortunately some kids do live this. For those that don’t it reveals a part of life that is important to recognize. Recognizing this part of society let’s children and adults discuss drugs instead of just ignoring them.

Comment by tiea

July 17, 2008 @ 9:20 am

I read the book, and it was somewhat interesting. I don’t think introducing drugs to young children would be a great thing to do. I especially would not like to explain to my child why every illustration in that book has a black person. I’m quite sure that if she looked at the illustrations (which she will), she will want to know why all of the addicts, women, and children are black. How can I explain to a child that some people think that only black people do drugs, sell drugs, and leave their children to do so. I honestly think, if this author was trying to get their point across, then they should have tried adding all races. I grew up in the “ghetto”, and I have lived in all different places where drugs were all around me. All races do drugs, sell them, and abandon their children to do so. I think this author is a person who hears, and watch the news, not a person who actually knows. Therefore, I think the author is ill informed, and the book she be “void”. Telling all children that only black people do drugs is just not my idea of an exceptional, multicultural, educational story and/or book. Now true or not, the majority of users may be black, but I refuse to tell my child that all users are black. I have lived it as a child, and I know that all users are not black. And if you are trying to help a child “cope” through their personal experience, this book is not a way to go. It would only make the child very sad. They may still be living it, and the re enactment of the whole story would remind them that there is no hope at all. I honestly did not see the positive in the story. This book should definitely be for teenagers and adults. This is not a children’s story. Anyone who think otherwise, is definitely ignorant.

Comment by Mark

July 17, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

Thanks for your comments, Tiea. Since I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment, I won’t comment on the representation of race within the book. I do note that the cover represents several backgrounds. I have to admit that I don’t remember noticing over-representation of African Americans in the book so I will definitely have a look when I get home.

I believe it’s very important to not shelter our children from the realities of the world. This is particularly true for any parent that allows their children to watch television and movies, listen to the radio, read the newspaper and magazines and ESPECIALLY use the Internet. I don’t suggest that we bombard children with how inhumane people can be until our children can’t sleep. I suggest that we respect our children and their capacity to understand; speak honestly and openly with your child so he/she can understand the world in which they live. It’s too late to explain to a child to not run out on the street when they’re being loaded into an ambulance, it’s too late to explain death to a child after they’ve lost a loved one and it’s too late to explain to a child to not take candy from strangers when they’re addicted to crack.

There’s a balance between building a bubble around our children and overexposing them to how cruel the world can be. Indoctrinating them and sheltering them dooms the world to repeat its mistakes for eternity. Thankfully, there are brave and creative people that recognize the potential for children’s books to help break the cycle.

Comment by Mark

July 17, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

By the way… there’s a great adaptation of this book in the form of a YouTube video of a class play.

Comment by Mark

July 17, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

Tiea… I examined the illustrations more closely this evening.

I’ve always seen the illustrations as Chagall-esque. In that respect they represent a hybrid of backgrounds in an impressionistic way (including crooked and upside-down heads, etc…).

I can see how the illustrations suggest a bias towards Hispanics and African Americans, though I do note there are Caucasians represented in some illustrations as well, including one in which a transaction is taking place.

Given that this book was published in 1992, perhaps it’s time for publishing companies to address this topic, again, in a clearly balanced way.

Comment by vivian vasquez

July 19, 2008 @ 4:00 am

A very powerful conversation is taking place with regards to this book and I’d like to touch base on a couple of points.

I think the very things we fear for our children are the very things we need to take up with them in some way so that they are able to make critical and informed decisions about how to live their lives.

As a teacher and a mother, I find this book creates space for taking up issues regarding drug use and lifestyle as well as issues around race. I don’t believe banning the book is a solution. Banning it doesn’t make any of the social issues, noted previously, go away. However, creating a space, through engaging with this book, for conversation about these social issues, when such issues present themselves in the lives of children inside or outside school, does make for a powerful learning experience that could help a child to make those critical and informed decisions I mentioned earlier.

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September 24, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

[...] The House that Crack Built byClark Taylor. “Dark and disturbing yet surprisingly digestible, this thought-provoking twist on the classic rhyme is an arresting introduction to drug-induced despair — and a call to choose to act to end it.” (Chronicle Books, 1992) This work by Reading Tub is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 US License [...]

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