Linda Ashman

children's book author, mom, wife, writing instructor, animal lover, gardener, vegetarian . . .

Jackson: The Hard Hat Years


"The wonderful chaos of a family of nine, busy at work and play in a creaky old house, comes to a sudden halt when a doorknob falls off the front door. Oh my goodness! What will they do? Well, it simply “looks like it needs a screw.” But as the family soon finds out, that quick fix isn’t quite right, and before long, everyone is busy trying out new knobs and new doors and even sketching out plans to redo the whole place: “‘Knock that closet. Add three feet.’/​ ‘How about a window seat?’” When the family finally takes a breather, it discovers that littlest Lizzie, in her own inimitable way, has discovered the perfect solution. Gleefully rhyming text and freewheeling double-page art, in watercolor with ink-line details, conveys the warm, happy goofiness of a special family that comes apart and then pulls together. The pictures are a tad too small and hectic for group sharing, but it will become a favorite lapshare." BOOKLIST

"A boy in a family of nine lovingly describes their creaky old house. The favorite oak tree, the handmade drawings on the wall, the quiet window seat, the frayed rug, the claw-foot tub, the trapdoor, and the banister that is ideal for sliding down more than make up for the cracks, chips, leaky roof, and sloping floors. When the front doorknob suddenly falls off in Pa’s hands, a simple repair job almost turns into a major renovation project . . . The clever, rhyming text bounces along with a perfect cadence. The ink, watercolor, and pencil illustrations enhance the telling, and readers will take great pleasure in poring over the many amusing details, especially those that foreshadow the satisfying ending." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

"Each line adds a layer of rich storytelling. Several passages describe the objects of the shed, hardware store and Dorothy's Door Emporium (doors ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime). Chesworth's vibrant and detailed illustrations, including a double-page cross-section of the house, invite lingering and revisiting. This ramshackle mess of an abode has real character and happily contains its frolicking family." KIRKUS

My office in the back of our creaky old bungalow. See that beautiful woodwork? It was pink when we bought it (thank you, Jack!!)
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Illustrations ©2009 by Michael Chesworth; published by Sterling.

At nearly 800 words, this is a fairly long text for a picture book. Here's the final version, which shows the pagination and my illustration notes.


Our house is kind of old and creaky,
Porch is sloping, roof is leaky.
Windows drafty, shutters peeling.
There's a crack across the ceiling.
Paint's a little chipped and faded.
Might say it's dilapidated.
Still, each one of us--all nine--
thinks the house is fine, just fine.

It's not hard to find the inspiration for this one. First, there was Jackson's "Bob the Builder" phase, during which he refused to leave the house without his hard hat and tool belt. Then there was the move from our 1921 English Tudor in Los Angeles to a slightly older Craftsman Bungalow in Denver. This coincided with Jack's decision to leave his law firm and restore old homes--beginning with ours. The tools multiplied in the basement. The magazines--This Old House, American Bungalow, Old House Journal--piled up on the kitchen counter. The sound of hammers, sanders and electric saws filled my ears. The scent of sawdust, paint and wood-stripper filled my nose. Thoughts of "be careful what you wish for" filled my head.

Despite the constant maintenance, I love old houses--the character, the details, the sense of strong endurance. And, of course, the history--written in the layers of paint and wallpaper, the worn floorboards, the secret compartment by the fireplace, the milk door at the back. If only they could speak--the stories they could tell about changing times and the families who've come and gone.

My thanks to Meredith Mundy Wasinger, editor extraordinaire, for helping me tell this family's story--in particular, for encouraging me to write a bit more about their attachment to their house in the first few pages. And many thanks to Michael Chesworth for his wonderful depiction of this wacky family, the chaotic chain of events, and, especially, the charm of their creaky old house (oh, and I love Wally's Hardware Store, too!).

"That's Wally's, built in 1910,
and never cleaned--not once--since then."

Teaching Themes: homes, old houses, construction, chain of events/​consequences, humor and stories in rhyme. For resources on teaching historic preservation, visit National Trust for Historic Preservation's Teaching Preservation program.

Preview on Google Books here.


Brand New
"A go-to source of calm and comfort." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
In Print
"Altogether delightful." Starred review, KIRKUS
"Excellent advice in a sweet and easy-to-swallow package." KIRKUS
"A memorable first skate by an irresistible imp." Starred review, KIRKUS
"Ashman's concept is both sophisticated and delightful." KIRKUS
"Beautifully crafted and satisfying." Starred Review, BOOKLIST
"Kids will love the colorful paintings while parents will appreciate that it's chock full of facts about the Centennial State." VAIL DAILY
A "lovely reverie on the joys of being alive and being loved." Starred Review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"As pithy and clever as Ogden Nash at his best." Starred Review, KIRKUS
"A splendid bedtime fantasy." KIRKUS
Other Titles
"Ashman's poetic portraits are packed with lots of tasty assonance and alliteration." Starred Review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Quirky, sarcastic, and rather educational, too." BOOKLIST
"A 10 on the "aw"-inspiring scale." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"A family outing gone hilariously awry." BOOKLIST
"A rip-roaring, exciting excursion." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
An "enchanting ride." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"The clever, rhyming text bounces along with perfect cadence." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"A riotous adventure." HORN BOOK MAGAZINE
"Vibrant, playful text . . . excellent for storytimes." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"A hilarious look at the world through the sharp eyes and nose of a dog." SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
"This one's a keeper." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Youngsters will find nothing but comfort in these pages." KIRKUS
"Ashman captures the non-stop action in rollicking rhyme." KIRKUS
A "captivating collaboration." Starred Review, KIRKUS
"A lighthearted look at bad behavior." KIRKUS
Wagmore is "a charming, gentle hero." KIRKUS REVIEWS